International partnerships research global impact of Covid-19

A funding call that supports research into Covid-19 and its impact on some of the world’s most disadvantaged people has awarded grants to 20 projects.

The projects, including one led by University of Glasgow’s Professor Fabrice Renaud, will develop solutions to mitigate the short and long-term social, economic and health consequences of the pandemic.

Vulnerable communities

Researchers and experts from the UK and across developing countries will work in partnership to directly address the negative impacts of COVID-19 on communities which are already vulnerable due to issues such as long-term conflict, food and water shortages, and crowded living conditions.

Fabrice Renaud is a Professor in Environmental Risk/Community Resilience based in the College of Social Sciences’ School of Interdisciplinary Studies in Dumfries.

His project will investigate the social and environmental impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic in Vietnamese provinces bordering China and Laos following border closure.

The project is a partnership between the University of Glasgow (School of Interdisciplinary Studies and School of Geographical and Earth Sciences) and the Vietnam National University - Central Institute for Natural Resources and Environmental Studies and the Vietnam National University of Agriculture, Vietnam.

Professor Renaud said: "We hope our research will achieve impact locally, by providing scientific evidence to local and national policy-makers as to the situation of vulnerable communities and of their environment, as well as developing future scenarios of this situation under various assumptions of the evolution of the pandemic and potential cross border movement".

"We are partnering with local authorities and aim to provide scientifically-grounded advice on amending existing policies so that ethnic minority dominated regions can receive the appropriate support to ensure we are "leaving no one behind", the stated aim of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals"

Dr Hue Le from the Vietnam National University - Central Institute for Natural Resources and Environmental Studies said "In Vietnam, the crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic is particularly exacerbated for vulnerable groups, especially ethnic female migrant workers.

"With their main sources of income lost and receiving very little to no support from the government, these communities are having problems making ends meet. Our research findings will inform decision makers on how to respond to and recover from the COVID-19 crisis in a more just and inclusive way in the uplands, better addressing the needs of all vulnerable people in Vietnam as well as in other countries in the region".

These awards are the second tranche to be announced by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funded through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and the Newton Fund.

After a first group of 20 projects were announced in September, it means a total of 40 partnerships are working across every part of the Global South. They are investigating everything from improving health systems in Africa to how the pandemic is affecting fishing communities, displaced people and people with disabilities.

14.5 million investment

The Agile COVID-19 GCRF and Newton Fund has invested 14.5 million into the projects. The projects have brought together more than 100 universities and hundreds of other partners operating in 39 countries in Africa, Asia, South America and Oceania.

They build on the multidisciplinary partnerships formed through the two global funds over the past four years. They have enabled rapid new partnerships between the international development research community, other academics, policy makers, governments, businesses and community groups across the UK and the rest of the world. The projects will be carried out over the next 18 months.

Ms. Ann Nyambura Wanyoike, the Manager, Radiology and Diagnostic Imaging at Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi, Kenya, and a member of the peer review panel that assessed the project proposals, said: "This Agile call was a timely and invaluable platform for innovative research ideas that showcased the potential impact of multidisciplinary approaches for tackling the global pandemic. The call drew a broad cross-section of researchers and partnerships from across the globe to spearhead novel proposals and innovations towards current policy or practice in the understanding of, response to, and recovery from COVID-19 in developing countries, with the capacity to deliver lasting impacts on livelihoods too."

Many strong proposals

Fellow peer review panelist, Professor Dr Ruzy Suliza Hashim, Centre for Research in Language and Linguistics, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, added: "There were many strong proposals that highlight the ways in which COVID-19 has impacted developing countries. The variety of inquiries and solutions to problems and challenges that different nations and communities experience in handling the pandemic require collaborative efforts of international partners. I was impressed with the scholarship and commitment from various academic and industry partners well as NGOs from across the world and this breadth of experience is central across all these project teams."

Social and environmental impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic in Vietnamese provinces bordering China and Laos following border closure project

Northern provinces in Vietnam that border China and Laos have been severely affected economically by the current Covid-19 pandemic. These provinces have high populations of ethnic minority groups who rely in part on cross border migration to sustain their families’ livelihoods. With border closure, major sources of income were foregone and because loss of employment in a foreign country is not recognised by Vietnamese social protection mechanisms in the context of this crisis, entire communities have had to develop their own coping mechanisms.

For example, some communities have increasingly started to rely on their surrounding natural environment. It is not clear how effective these and other coping measures are, nor what the long run consequences on natural resources will be.

This project aims to investigate how the current crisis has shaped the relationship between vulnerable communities and their natural environment by combining different scientific approaches. We will investigate the economic and environmental consequences of Covid-19 related border closure on the most vulnerable households of three border provinces in Northern Vietnam.

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