As Honiara prepares for a trial lockdown, it is probably timely to make a quick assessment on the impact of a real lockdown, if it ever comes to that.
According to the United Nations (UN), (2020) “The COVID-19 pandemic is exposing vulnerabilities in social, political and economic systems which are in turn amplifying the impact of the pandemic.”
The report says that the impact of COVID −19 on many economies has been highlighted across the globe with evidence suggesting that the impact is worse in developing countries.
“Developing countries are more likely to suffer the worst economic shock and this is generally due to the lack of social support packages from the government.”
Solomon Islands is ill prepared for a real protracted lockdown, social support services or packages are non-existent. The only form of social support service is through the rural constituency development funds (RCDF), administered by Members of Parliament (MP).
The only other social safety net we have is the ‘wantok system,’ where relatives step in to assist in times of need. If ever there was a lockdown both systems are incapable of protecting the most vulnerable in our society. The impact would be worse in Honiara, where urbanization is happening unplanned, and those living in informal settlements outnumber those in formal areas.
How will they cope? Any form of social support service must be developed quick. Such social support service needs to focus on their livelihood, or basic needs – such as food, water and shelter. In the absence of a formal social support system other systems should be explored. The church is probably the only form of structure that exists in most of these informal settlements.
The role of the church should be expanded – they should be supported, trained and equipped to take care of the most vulnerable in their communities, especially those in Honiara. The impact of a real protracted lockdown will fall on those that are already struggling, and established structures in their communities such as the church have a real role to play – if it ever come to that.
These church buildings could be converted into a place of refuge, where people can take shelter and be fed. Or they could be used as a distribution point, where proper coordination is possible.
Either way, the church is the only existing structure in any community, and perhaps the only structure that still commands some respect in their communities.