Symposium Report: The Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Vulnerable Communities in the Philippines – Philippines
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the loss of millions of lives, disrupted the global economy and created secondary impacts on livelihoods, education and mental health across the world. No country or economic group has been immune to the direct impacts of the pandemic, but marginalized communities are particularly vulnerable to secondary impacts, including certain public health measures like extended lockdowns. Marginalized populations are those who are excluded from traditional social, economic, educational, political and/or cultural life. They may be excluded or discriminated against due to multiple factors such as their race, ethnic origin, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, religion, language and/or displacement, among others. The Resilient Communities Program of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) sought to understand how vulnerable or marginalized communities in the Philippines have experienced COVID-19, and how communities have coped and adapted in response to direct and indirect effects of COVID-19, including public health measures. To do this, HHI invited Filipino authors exploring this central question to submit papers for review in order to be selected for presentation and sharing at a symposium. In addition to its research objectives, the symposium aimed to connect researchers and practitioners to create a network of professionals dedicated to meeting the needs of marginalized communities across the country.
HHI issued a call for submissions via academic networks, news and social media. A total of 60 articles were reviewed and nine were selected for presentation. Nine research teams presented their work in a live online symposium. To explore the findings, the symposium included three breakout sessions organized by theme. The first group focused on livelihoods, the second on health and the third on social vulnerability. Each group discussed four questions focused on identifying effective measures to protect marginalized groups at local and national levels, the role that academia plays in this, what steps are needed to protect marginalized groups, and how which this network of researchers could work together in the future. The conversations were moderated by HHI faculty and the results of each discussion were reported back in plenary.
The reflections offered by the authors in the discussions on each question are drawn from their own research experience with the community or communities with which each has worked. The authors have engaged with a multitude of different types of vulnerable communities, including seafarers, domestic workers, garment workers, homeless people, indigenous peoples, the elderly and communities displaced. Although these different types of vulnerable communities have startlingly different experiences and needs, common themes emerge from their disparate experiences and their varied approaches to dealing with the pandemic provide interesting insights that other types of vulnerable or marginalized groups can learn from. be able to learn.