This past year, the coronavirus pandemic has impacted every country, every community, and every person in this world – but not equally nor in the same ways. For communities who experience vulnerability and marginalization, because of structural barriers such as economic inequality, racism, harmful gender norms, and numerous other intertwining factors, these challenges have been exacerbated and inequalities even further exposed by the pandemic.

As our epidemiologists, laboratory scientists, public health specialists and researchers have worked to produce relevant and timely evidence to support national health ministries and other government agencies around the world in their COVID-19 response strategies, they have seen first-hand the effects and impacts of COVID-19 on populations and communities experiencing the most marginalization and poverty. Many of our colleagues, especially those conducting research in the communities in which they live and work, see their work as key to addressing many of the historical inequities that are familiar to them. As part of a series we are sharing throughout this week, we asked a few of them to reflect on their work and how they hope, through research and evidence generation, that they will help address the various inequities that are being magnified by the pandemic.

Learn more about work from our colleagues in Mexico:

Inequities are a historical and structural characteristic of Latin America. While in recent years there has been progress in reducing inequities in the region, Latin America and the Caribbean is still the most unequal region in the world. The Gini coefficient of income inequality in Mexico in 2017 was 0.50, one of the highest in the region. Data from the first round of the VoCeS-19 study show that wealth-based inequalities are being exacerbated by COVID-19 mitigation measures among adolescents and young adults in Mexico, as youth that are being impacted the most in terms of education, labor, health and violence indicators are individuals from lower income households. This study is one of few efforts in the country to show the magnitude of the impact of COVID-19, particularly for key vulnerable populations. 

From its conception and design, VoCeS-19 has followed a participatory approach to gather the perspectives and needs of adolescents and young adults and input from different stakeholders to ensure that the interests of young people are at the center of the project. In addition to engaging NGOs, adolescents and young people, we engaged Government institutions working with these populations including the Mexican Institute of the Youth (IMJUVE) and the Center of Gender Equity and Reproductive Health (CNEGSR) to ensure the results of the study inform the design and/or reformulation of policies for youth in Mexico, aiming to address education, labor, violence and health disruptions due to COVID-19 mitigation measures among this population. We hope that results are used to focus efforts toward those population groups—youth from lower socioeconomic levels, ethnic minorities, and women and girls—who have experienced historical inequalities in the country and those that are being and will be impacted the most during the pandemic. Ultimately, we hope VoCeS-19 can also be a platform to inform and engage adolescents and young adults as agents of change of their own realities.

Read additional perspectives on this topic from Council colleagues in Bangladesh, India, Kenya, and Pakistan.

Learn more about the research collected worldwide by the Population Council to address the populations at the greatest disadvantage and inform responses to the COVID-19 pandemic at our Humanitarian Task Force hub.

June 8, 2021

By: Isabel Vieitez and Silvana Larrea

in Research Spotlight