This article attempts to show the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic to the scope of work of the Centre for African Justice, Peace and Human Rights (CAJPHR), a Foundation based in The Hague, Netherlands that is engaged in promoting justice, peace and human rights through education, awareness, campaign, training, and capacity building in Africa.





General Overview of the COVID-19 situation and initial impacts in Africa
Paulo Vitor Belmok

 Measure of COVID-19: Impact on Sexual and Domestic Violence
Júlia Miragall Mas

Impacts of the COVID-19 into the Right to Quality Education in Africa
Diana Mocioc

The Effects of COVID-19 on Women
Azizat Sulaimon
Mary Efua Manukure
Benedicta Nana Konadu Yeboah
Evelyn Anietie James


How COVID-19 is affecting legal Capacity Building (CB) activity in Africa
Marianne Allam

The Hague, Netherlands, 18 May 2020


By Paulo Vitor Belmok

The outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has rapidly spread from the initial epicentre in China to the rest of the World. Due to the alarming levels of spread and severity, followed by inactive politics, the World Health Organization (WHO) characterized the COVID-19 as a pandemic in the beginning of March 2020[1]. According to the WHO, this is the first time in history, the world has been facing a pandemic that could be controlled, and thus, as the virus continued to spread, most of the countries have taken measures to fight against the imminent threat.

By May 2020, more than 250,000 deaths were confirmed within the 212 countries and territories around the world.[2] This dreadful scenario has already affected the world in various aspects at the socio-economical level, but its future impacts to the society are still highly uncertain as people interactions, course of work, online connections, hygienic standards, health facilities and much more can suffer severe changes due to the virus.

The undetermined consequences of the COVID-19 show that the high scale of costs could be avoided if there were greater investments in public health systems across the globe[3], but the less developed countries suffer even more due to less efficient health facilities, high population density, fragile economies, and lack of resources.

While the Coronavirus pandemic has saturated the health systems in North America and Europe, ten countries in Africa do not have even ventilators at their health facilities. In the entire African continent there are only 20,000 intensive care beds which is equivalent to 1.7 bed for every 100,000 people. For example, in Uganda there are only 55 intensive care beds for 43 million people, and in Malawi 25 beds for 17 million citizens[4].

Developed countries can afford to amplify their structures to put up with the crisis, they can sustain a country lockdown as their citizens can stay home with minor risks to their safety, and they manage to keep their operations online. Meanwhile, there is no poor country that can afford the economic safety net that is currently sustaining many developed economies, lockdowns can bring risks for their lives, there are insufficient resources to keep their economies running and the worst scenario leads to a socio-economic collapse.


By Júlia Miragall Mas

On 11th March 2020, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) addressed the outbreak of the COVID-19:  “WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction. We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic[5]”.

The so-called coronavirus has indeed reached most of the world, and has therefore, become a global threat that governments have had to take actions against[6]. Many have established protectionist measures thereby enforcing city lockdowns and closing borders[7].

Despite the intention to protect civilians and serve as preventive measures, quarantines have also had an effect on victims of domestic and sexual violence[8]. According to the Deputy Executive Director of United Nations Women, the isolation has provided an opportunity for abusers to make more use of violence within the confines of their homes[9]. Aggressors tend to use emergencies and pandemics like the one we are currently living in as a justification and means to enforce control over their victims[10], while preventing their spouse, child or partner from escaping such an abuse[11]. Moreover, even though it is commonly known that women make up the majority of the victims[12], men and children have also been impacted by domestic and sexual violence to a great extent during the lockdowns[13].

“My husband won’t let me leave the house. He’s had flu-like symptoms and blames keeping me here on not wanting to infect others or bringing something like COVID-19 home. But I feel like it’s just an attempt to isolate me” tells a victim of domestic violence through a call to the Chinese National Domestic Violence Hotline[14].In China, there has been a significant increase in reported domestic violence cases, which in February 2020 tripled the number of cases of the previous year[15]. According to a Hubei (China) local police office statistics show that 90% of the recent causes of sexual violence are related to this pandemic[16]. Similar increases have shown to repeat themselves all over the world; in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) domestic violence specialist Adriana Mello reports a rise of between 40% and 50% of cases since the lockdown was put in place[17].

Moreover, the current crisis also adds difficulties for victims to seek help[18]. Medical facilities are experiencing shortages of both sanitary materials and personnel protective equipment[19]. In addition, if able to reach the facilities, victims expose themselves to being infected[20]. Social services specializing in providing a response to such cases are experiencing a lack of funding also due to the economic recession resulting from the virus outbreak, which further worsens their situation[21]. For this, United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres has made a global call stating that “together, we can and must prevent violence everywhere, from war zones to people’s homes, as we work to beat COVID-19[22].

The coronavirus has also reached the African continent and governments have enforced lockdowns as preventive measures[23]. For instance, more that 20 million civilians remain in lockdown in Lagos, capital of Nigeria[24]. All throughout African cities, businesses and services are closed, and people are required to remain in their homes as police continue to track down possible COVID-19 carriers[25]. For this, there has been a grave impact of the current crisis in African economies, especially in Nigeria[26], and in South Africa[27]. South Africa has shown to be the most impacted by the outbreak as there are currently almost 20,000 cases of COVID-19 in the country[28], to which the national police and army have responded with violent arrests while trying to enforce the mandatory lockdown[29].

In cities like Lagos in Nigeria, the enforcement of such measures represents a significant challenge[30], as many of its inhabitants live crammed into slums, and are now struggling to earn enough to sustain basic needs[31]. For this reason, stocking food has been a challenge for most, as their savings prove not to be sufficient[32]. Moreover, governmental and external aids are not being well distributed[33] which adds to the lack of medical material and personnel in African hospitals[34].

In such context, victims of sexual and domestic violence are under an even higher threat. Victims face not only the threat of their aggressors[35], but they are also exposed to the risks of being locked out of their homes[36]. As both women and children tend to be economically dependent on their parents or partners, they also put themselves at risk of not being able to sustain their basic needs if seeking for help[37].

This is increasingly worsened by the lack of specific laws addressing both sexual and domestic violence in many African countries[38]. Namely, 24 of 27 African countries do not have any laws addressing marital rape, and 13 out of 27 lack existing laws tackling domestic violence according to data of 2016[39]. Moreover, generally both women and children are viewed as “weaker” parties and of “less worth” in a household within African societies[40].

As stated by Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka United Nations Women Executive, domestic violence is gravely underreported, with many not being able to seek help. The current pandemic has worsened this situation, as there are many “limitations on (victims’) access to phones and helplines and disrupted services like police, justice and social services. (They) fuel impunity for perpetrators (…) (given that) one in four countries have no laws specifically protecting (victims) (…) from domestic violence”[41].

Therefore, victims of sexual and domestic violence face additional threats nowadays under conditions of lockdown in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak[42]. As stated, this is especially true for the African region[43], where the severe enforcement of lockdowns are taking place, and there are insufficient economic means, shortages in hospitals and lack of resources altogether. Additionally, the cultural and social conceptions of women, children and even men who become victims of sexual and domestic violence make it increasingly difficult for victims of such crimes to seek help and access any sort of aid[44].

Impacts of the COVID-19 into the Right to Quality Education in Africa
By Diana Mocioc

The current situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a huge negative impact on the education systems in the African continent. The reason behind the problem is due to the many difficulties that many African countries face when it comes to the educational realm including high dropout rates.[45]

Before the outbreak of the virus, there were 258 million children out of school in the world. This number was led by various factors such as poverty and conflicts, and reflects the social differences among countries.[46] Considering the current circumstances, it is highly known that the COVID-19 crisis has aggravated the situation.

In some African countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda, all educational facilities were temporarily closed, millions of students have no means to continue their studies while their countries are in lockdown.[47]

Privileged countries have implemented distance learning, but the challenging reality in most of Africa shows that there are no means for most of the countries to achieve this educational level. Smartphones and the internet are not accessible for a high number of pupils in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Due to the countries’ lockdowns, economies have been extremely affected, which may lead to complete fallout that will bring even more negative impacts to the educational system in Africa.[48]

A prompt solution to this scenario could be given by foreign investments in Africa and the implementation of major interventions for the development of an efficient distance learning system in the most vulnerable areas.

The coronavirus crisis has shown that, for the long term,  all the countries should develop a better risk preparedness. The recovery moment post crisis shall be used by governments as a time to re-think on how education has been delivered in their countries, as the loss of efficient learning systems leads to the loss of skills and competencies. Even though the world is facing a terrible crisis, let it serve as a reminder that one should never forget that the children of today will be the leaders of tomorrow.

The Effect of COVID 19 on Women
By Azizat Sulaimon; Mary Efua Manukure; Benedicta Nana Konadu Yeboah; Evelyn Anietie James

Since the outbreak of COVID 19, governments around the world are making efforts and taking unprecedented measures to limit the spread of the virus, gearing up the health system responses, and have restricted unessential movement, to curb the spread of the virus. Amidst these efforts, policymakers should not overlook the vulnerabilities of women and girls during this crisis. It is generally known that women and girls are affected more during a pandemic[49]. “Pandemics make existing gender parity against women and girls worse, and can influence how they receive treatment and care.”[50] The impact of COVID 19 is evident in all spheres, from the economy to health, security to social protection, and the impacts of the pandemic are aggravated for girls and women by virtue of their gender[51]. While the impact of COVID 19 is widespread, it is crucial that all national responses put women and girls into account so as not to only rectify outstanding inequalities but to also build a more just and resilient world.[52]

Economic Impact: The majority of the livelihoods in Africa  are from  informal sectors, which refers to economic activities by workers and economic units that are in law or by practice, insufficiently covered by formal state arrangements. The economic impact calls for special attention during this lockdown and social distancing measures since 70% of women’s employment is in the informal sector in  developing countries.  Women’s economic and productive lives are affected disproportionately and differently from men because being employed in the informal sector exacerbates the risk of  running out of daily survival incomes. Women who are most affected by such economic measures are mostly breadwinners, single-parents, students amongst others who must make ends meet.


Health Impacts: The health of women is greatly affected by the reallocation of resources and priorities which includes reproductive and sexual health services. The pandemic makes it more difficult for women and girls to access health services. Females have unique health needs, but hardly have access to quality health services, vaccines and essential medicines, reproductive healthcare, maternal or insurance health coverage, mostly in remote or marginalized communities. This can be as a result of social norms and stereotypes.

It is recorded worldwide that about 70% of women make up the health workforce and are more inclined to be frontline health workers, with a majority being health facilities service staff,  such as, laundry, cleaners, and catering, and they are more likely to be exposed to the virus. Women in some areas have low access to personal protective equipment. Despite these numbers, women are barely reflected in national or global decision making responses to the pandemic.

Gender Based Violence: Globally, violence against women and girls is on the rise, as the pandemic combined with the measures to reduce the impact is making it almost impossible to have access to support services thereby exacerbating the conditions of women. Sadly, “many of these women are now trapped in their homes with their abusers.”[53] Women and children are often the most vulnerable to violence and abuse in the home and the face of any emergency or epidemic both in urban and rural areas.[54] Reports all over the world show that gender-based violence against women and children has been on the increase since the compulsory lockdown and quarantine. Why the increase? It goes without a doubt that the compulsory lockdown caused by the COVID 19 pandemic has disrupted the source of livelihoods of individuals even more so for families with responsibilities especially for those earning a living through the informal sector. The tension and pressure to meet the basic needs and services in the home front has led to partners taking out their frustration on their wives and children. The burden of caring for the home without exerting any form of pressure on the man makes women a target in their homes. This situation puts women at a greater risk of experiencing not only sexual abuse but, also domestic violence. Perpetrators of abuse have exploited the restrictions due to COVID-19 to exercise power and control over their partners, thereby reducing their access to services, help, and psychosocial support from both formal and informal networks.[55] With close to 5 000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, South Africa has the largest number of COVID-19 infections on the continent. The President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a nationwide lockdown which will last for some months and move from level 5 until 1. Part of this initiative included the deployment of 24,389 security forces responsible for the enforcement of this strict policy. Prior to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, rates of gender-based violence in South Africa were among the highest in the world. According to government reports, a South African woman is murdered every three hours on average, with many assaulted and raped before their demise. The rate in violence against women had already ignited protests in many parts of South Africa, leading the government in September 2019 to recognize the dire state of women within the country by declaring gender-based violence and femicide a national crisis. South Africa is not alone. In Kenya, the National Council on Administration of Justice has also reported a spike in sexual offenses, and has identified the primary perpetrators as “close relatives, guardians, and/or persons living with the victims.”

Human Rights Watch has reported that one 16-year-old Kenyan girl was captured and sexually assaulted by a man who reportedly kidnapped her because he “needed female company” in order to get through the lockdown. The focus right being on how to find a cure or prevent the spread of the virus has led to a shift in the focus on the perpetrators of gender-based violence or how to help victims of abuse, especially in African societies. Most women due to the restriction of movement, no source of economic livelihood, shelter, protection from exposure to the virus cannot leave their homes or seek help[56].  They become extremely dependent financially on their male counterparts despite the violent environment around them.[57]

Education: In Africa, lockdown measures have tremendously impacted girls’ education.  UNESCO has estimated that 90% of the world’s student population is currently out of school, which represents 1.54 billion children and adolescents, with approximately 743 million girls, of which over 111 million of these girls are situated in the world’s developing countries[58]. Countries that are already struggling with providing girls with adequate access to education as a result of extreme poverty, gender disparities, and inequalities.[59]

The effect of the pandemic has led schools to turn to other alternatives to provide education for students such as the internet.  In most parts of Africa, there is either little or no access to the internet or accessed data is unreliable for homeschooling /learning, even then, not all have access or can afford an internet connection.  According to UNESCO, only 55% of the world’s households have access to an internet connection, to be more specific, 87% in the developed States, 47% in the developing countries, and just 19% in the least developed countries.[60] Illustrating that, over 111 million of the girls situated in developing countries will fall behind in their education as classes shift online for teachers to keep up with the curriculum. Hence, girls staying at home without access to further their education will be left behind.[61]

In conclusion, it is pertinent that all national and international bodies put women into consideration while making decisions to help eradicate or further prevent the spread of the virus. While doing , they should make sure to cover every area of concern, from the health impacts to economic impacts to quality education, and eliminating gender-based violence. Efforts should be made to reduce the impacts of the pandemic on women and girls who have been proven to be majorly affected by COVID 19.


How COVID-19 is affecting legal Capacity Building (CB) activity in Africa
By Marianne Allam

Scenes resembling , play out from Morocco to South Africa. The African continent is rushing to contain the spread of the worst pandemic in this century. Governments have been forced to take the harshest restrictions in living memory as the world battles the novel coronavirus. Africa, the world’s poorest continent, is especially vulnerable. It might experience abuse of power from the government or activists groups ready to take advantage of the situation. Indeed, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Sudan, Angola, Tanzania, Ghana, and Kenya have a higher vulnerability regarding the impact of Covid-19 on their society. Africa is beginning to feel its full impact and plans to control and manage the humanitarian challenges of the virus are underway across the continent. This is causing further uncertainty on a continent already grappling with widespread geopolitical and economic instabilities. Let us look at the impact of Covid-19 on the legal capacity building activities of international and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in Africa and the role of African courts.

Local African authorities are taking the threat of reaching high numbers of confirmed cases very seriously. AFP News Agency reports that streets are empty, schools and universities have been shut down, nationwide lockdowns have been , and police have been patrolling to make sure residents stay at home. These measures make it difficult for local and international NGOs to set up legal capacity building projects as the potential participants may not have an internet connection at home. Social distancing in Africa, generally, and in the Sub-Saharan region, specifically, is an obstacle for the continuity and sustainability of humanitarian work .

The coronavirus highlights, yet again, the differences in capacity/ability to respond to a crisis. While the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) was able to implement a range of measures to safeguard the security and well-being of its staff while continuing to carry out its mission to promote access to justice and the rule of law around the world, including in Africa, the Association of African Universities that most of the educational institutions which are members are not able to continue operating. This means that teaching, learning, and research has stalled because the African tertiary institutions are unable to move their education online. The AAU has sent a request to each African Ministry of Education to support their higher education institutions. The association has called on the various ministries to strengthen the universities by prioritizing investment in the internet infrastructure as this facilitates connectivity for all the citizens. This, in my view, is the fastest way to enable education to start again and make legal capacity building training possible.

African leaders have instituted strict lockdowns because they fear a spike in new Covid-19 infections but this creates a different problem as a hostile and unstable environment is emerging. This creates challenges for several actors. Governments and courts from especially the Sub-Saharan region are not ready to face this geopolitical instability mixed with a healthcare sanitary crisis. , while local and international NGOs face the logistical challenge of limiting or stopping their legal capacity building activities because of the lockdown, the lack of infrastructure, and the inability to deliver online sessions.

[1] World Health Organization <>

[2] Worldometer <>

[3] The Global Macroeconomic Impacts of COVID-19: Seven Scenarios – Australian National University

[4] The Guardian <>

[5] World Health Organization (WHO) “WHO Director-General’s openig reparks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 11 March 2020”, (2020), Available from: <—11-march-2020>(Accessed: 24/04/2020)

[6]Graham-Harrison, E., et Al., “Lockdowns around the world bring rise in domèstic violence”, (2020), The Guardian, Avialable from: <> (Accessed: 24/04/2020)

[7] ibid

[8] ibid

[9] ibid

[10] ibid

[11] ibid

[12] ibid

[13] ibid

[14] Godin, M. “As Cities Arround the World Go on Lockdown Victims of Domestic Violence Look for a Way Out”, (2020), Time, Available from: <> (Accessed: 24/04/2020)

[15] ibid

[16] Graham-Harrison, E., et. Al., (n 2) Accessed: 24/04/2020)

[17] ibid

[18] ibid

[19] ibid

[20] ibid

[21] ibid

[22] United Nations (UN) News, “UN chief calls for domèstic violence ‘ceasefire’ amid ‘horrifying global surge’“, (2020), Available from: <>(Accessed: 24/04/2020)

[23] Nyabiage, J., “Coronavirus: milions enter lockdown in Africa – but is it too late?”, (2020) South China Morning Post, Available from: <> (Accessed: 24/04/2020)

[24] ibid

[25] ibid

[26] Savoye, L., “Coronavirus en Afrique: Les réponses aux 24 questions clés des lecterus du ‘Monde Afrique’ “ (2020), Le Monde, Available from: <> (Accessed: 24/04/2020)

[27]Coronavirus en Afrique: quels sont les pays impactés?”, Afrique TV Monde, (2020), Available from: <> (Accessed: 24/04/2020)

[28] ibid

[29] ibid

[30] Nyabiage, J. (n 19) (Accessed: 24/04/2020)

[31] ibid

[32] ibid

[33] Savoye, L. (n 22) (Accessed: 24/04/2020)

[34] ibid

[35] ibid

[36] ibid

[37] ibid

[38] United Nations (UN), “Gender statistics: Violence Against Women – Minimum Set of Gender Indicators” (2016), Available from: <> (Accessed: 24/04/2020)

[39] ibid

[40] Burrill, E. Et al. “Domestic Violence and the Law in Africa”, Available from: Ohios Wallow, Available from: <> (Accessed: 24/04/2020)

[41] ibid

[42] South China Morning Post (n 26) (Accessed: 24/04/2020)

[43] ibid

[44] UN (n 34) (Accessed: 24/04/2020)

[45]  Kaliope Azzi-Huck, ‘Managing the impact of COVID-19 on education systems around the world: How countries are preparing, coping, and planning for recovery’ (World Bank Blogs, 18 March 2020) accessed 25 April 2020

[46] Justin van Fleet, ‘Education in the time of COVID-19’ (Global Partnership for Education, 18 March 2020) accessed 27 April 2020

[47]  Samira Sawlani, ‘COVID-19: Africa told to prepare for worst. What’s the response?’ (ALJAZEERA, 19 March 2020/0 accessed 25 April 2020

[48] Kaliope Azzi-Huck, ‘Managing the impact of COVID-19 on education systems around the world: How countries are preparing, coping, and planning for recovery’ (World Bank Blogs, 18 March 2020) accessed 25 April 2020

[49] United Nations Population Fund, ‘As Pandemic Rages, Women and Girls Face Intensified Risks’(UNFPA, 19 March 2020) <> accessed 13 April  2020

[50] Ibid

[51] United Nations Women, ‘UN Secretary –General’s Policy Brief: The Impact of COVID 19 on Women’ (UN, 9 April 2020)<> accessed 3 May 2020

[52] United Nations, ‘The Impact of COVID-19 On Women’ (Policy Brief, 9 April 2020) <> accessed 3 May 2020

[53] Ibid

[54] World Health Organisation ‘COVID-19 and violence against women What the health sector/system can do’ (20 April 2020) <> accessed 1 May 2020

[55] Boram Jang, ‘Gender Based Violence During the COVID 19 Pandemic and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’ (OpinioJuris, 23 April 2020) <> accessed 30 April 2020

[56] Melissa Godin, ‘As Cities Around the World go on Lockdown, Victims of Domestic Violence Look for a Way Out’ (Time, 18 March, 2020) <>accessed 30 April 2020

[57] Atlantic Council The “shadow pandemic” of gender-based violence

[58] UNESCO ‘COVID-19 Educational Disruption and Response <> accessed 30 April 2020; Plan international <> accessed 30 April 2020.


[60]World Economic Forum <> accessed 30 Apr. 2020.

[61] The telegraph ‘Education in crisis: why girls will pay the highest price in the Covid-19 pandemic’ <> accessed 1 May 2020.