Jakarta, Indonesia – May 13, 2020 – Africa-Asia Youth Foundation (AAYFO) Indonesia housed a two-day virtual summit via Zoom in the 65th commemoration of Afro-Asian Conference in Bandung, Indonesia. The summit aimed to consolidate youth from other AAYFO chapters to examine the aftermath of Covid-19 towards the natural and social and economic environment.
This initiative is part of AAYFO’s strategy in nurturing South-South Cooperation (SSC), knowledge sharing, and best practices across developing countries to propel sustainable development across nations. Throughout the summit, all participants from 10 countries engaged in addressing issues in corresponding countries and proposed some recommendations.
The starting discussion covers environmental impacts related to the outbreak of Covid-19. Ms. Duong, a Vietnamese youth activist for a sustainable living lifestyle, views Covid-19 as the symptom of systemic illness. She expresses her concerns about lenient policy enforcement and perpetuated supply chain management detrimental to nature due to significant net emission, especially in developing countries in the southern hemisphere. Similarly, Mr. Baganda, an environmentalist from Congo, indicated that Africans suffer more from wood logging than from air pollution. Although Congo forests serve as the planet’s lungs, 80% of African households are major carbon contributors due to their reliance on charcoal. While Duong described that Asian countries benefit from the gas emission reduction during the Covid-19, self-isolation soars the demand for charcoal in Africa. Baganda concluded that the crisis has resulted in drought, inundation, and locust invasion across the continent.
After the talk, some recommendations were presented. The first speaker called for stricter environmental law enforcement and a polyculture practice for farmers. At the community level, she also encourages people to be more conscious of the production and distribution process of their food. Likewise, the second urged the government to assess any contributing factor of wood exploitation and thereby discouraging its use. Moreover, he proposed for utilization of the latest technology-based intervention such as renewable solar energy and hydropower to ameliorate the climate crisis.
The following day, the conference highlighted the increasing number of gender-based violations (GBV) during the pandemic and current global recessions. A team of Kenal.in, Aini, Revian, and Sheila explained that Indonesia is the second most dangerous country for women in the Asia Pacific due to sexual violence with 93% cases of which are underreported. Ms. Shumbanhete, a provincial ambassador at Women Entrepreneurship Day Organization, highlighted that African women and children are suffering way more than men from the virus due to the spike cases of GBV, domestic violence, and child abuse, especially the frontline workers and caretakers.
Both speakers elaborated that the lockdown has insinuated that the escalated responsibility for women to serve as a person in charge of the sick, limiting their access to public service and education. “Quarantine and social isolation mean that abusers […] are in close proximity around the clock and other people are not around to see the size of violence and (to) intervene,” says Aini. According to Shumbanhete, the housewives will suffer discrimination if they refuse or are unable to carry out the care. Job losses, reduced income, food scarcity, fear of contracting the virus, and poor mental well-being are factors inciting violence against women and children.
Kenal.in and Shumbanhete proposed recommendations in areas of the creative campaign and community-based intervention. As most Indonesia are active users of social media, Kenal.in strives to establish an online community offering a judgment-free space in which survivors and experts can share their narrative and knowledge. The platform also aims to raise awareness about GBV and deconstruct stigma related to gender via podcast. Furthermore, in Zimbabwe, a seed project is on its way wherein people grow seeds in a tiny garden and then distribute them to the community. This would help particularly women from the informal sectors who endure limited income to feed their families. Then, they can grow these seedlings in their residence for personal use, or they can sell them. Shumbanhete believes in this on-the-ground solution and is optimistic that the home-made plant vegetation will, in turn, expand local communities’ capacity to support their kin.
Further on the economic front, some studies predict that the impact is indirect and is the result of collective behavioral changes. The government and individuals set up preemptive efforts to avoid infection and to survive the pandemic. Reflecting on case studies of SARS in 2003, Mr. Arbin Shrestha, Finance Director at AAYFO-Nepal, illustrated that although the contagion rate was sparse, it landed a hard blow on the economy in Nepal. He went on to say that the collision was mediated by the type of social interventions, severity, and transmission rate of the disease. Thus, while Covid-19 has a somewhat insignificant health impact, it has a significant effect on the economy.
The economic aftermath has had an effect on various fronts. Market trends in all sectors ranging from equity markets, tourism, manufacturing, banks, and petroleum are plummeting at a global scale. Other impacts include massive unemployment, food shortage, trade deficit, and defalcations in mortgages and financial loans. According to Mr. Jesse Chinedu Isagbah, Director for Plateau State at AAYFO-Nigeria, over 46 million people will be pushed into poverty due to Covid-19 with 23 million and 16 millions of which are from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, respectively. Also, countries solely dependent on the sectors above, such as Nigeria will be the worst-hit nation.
Although the recession is inevitable, some measures are available to mute the impact. In terms of improving the economic burden, Arbin suggested that governments need to decrease the interest rates for commercial loans, promote Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and impose strict laws against the shadow economy. Nonetheless, Isagbah argued that they must not cherry-pick policies as what works on other nations may be incompatible. Plans have to be country-specific that meet the peculiar needs of the country. Although the lockdown rule might be useful, its implementation without provision of primary livelihood is impractical as some people are more averse to starvation than to infection. Lastly, in terms of containing the pandemic, the government should offer relief from customs duties on imported food and medical supplies to ensure purchasability and availability. “Reduction on import duty rates [is essential] for the modern agriculture and especially [on] the medical supplies”, says Arbin, “because the medical supplies [are] coming out from different countries”.
The summit concluded that the effect of Covid-19 has been enormous. While some people enjoy the reduction of gas emission from lower traffic and limited community movement, some others suffer from GBV and recession. Although the pandemic brings about a moderate health issue; it delivers humongous blows to the global economy. As a result, governments and societies are encouraged to provide community-based interventions as a means to relieve the tension caused by the pandemic.
Mr. Ferga Aristama, AAYFO Indonesia Country Director
Tel: +62 878 7584 5748