COVID-19 and community interactions among Ethiopian and Eritrean migrants in Nairobi

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talkResearch


This paper analyses how COVID-19 and the resultant lock-down policies in Nairobi have impacted migrant community interactions. It is based on preliminary findings of a study that compares the Eritrean and Ethiopian diaspora in Nairobi, Kenya and Khartoum, Sudan. Drawing on initial interview data collected through virtual interviews with members from both diasporas in Nairobi, it demonstrates the following:
Lock down policies have greatly impacted migrants’ lives through loss of income and reduced remittances. Of the 14 interviewees, even though the majority were in work or employment, almost all relied on additional remittances from diaspora members in countries of the Global North to make a living in Nairobi.
More importantly, COVID-19 policies have reduced or eliminated the social spaces that determine diaspora lives to an often more important degree than material resources. Lock-down policies had the most profound implications in the inability to attend religious gatherings and/or come together over coffee ceremonies. Both are for many the most important social focal points from where other interactions within the diaspora community, but also with other residents in their neighbourhood or the wider city, are being created and maintained.
The above dynamics have severe implications for psychological and holistic well-being of Eritrean and Ethiopian migrant communities who in different ways draw strengths from these social encounters. Government responses have thus affected the livelihoods of these migrants in ways that are ill-understood or ignored. Findings from the paper aim to contribute to a better understanding of the complex dynamics that determine migrant livelihoods. This in turn is hoped to help inform public policy so that in mitigation of COVID-19 and/or outbreaks of similar pandemics in the future, the policy response takes holistic migrant well-being better into account.
Period22 Feb 202124 Feb 2021
Event title2nd IGAD Scientific Conference on Migration and Displacement: Human Mobility in the Context of COVID-19
Event typeConference
LocationAddis Ababa, EthiopiaShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute