The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on families, women, and children in the Arab region was the focus of an online seminar jointly organised by Hamad Bin Khalifa University’s College of Public Policy (CPP), the College of Education at Sultan Qaboos University, and the Faculty of Social Sciences, Kuwait University on March 30.
Academics, researchers, and advocates on family and children’s issues from Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt discussed the findings of data collected in 20 Arab countries under the global ‘Covid-19 Family Life Research Study’ initiated at CPP. Carried out between March and October 2020, the cross-cultural study surveyed families in 72 countries to examine the challenges they faced during the pandemic.
The seminar’s expert panel highlighted striking aspects of the study pertaining to different regions in the Arab world. Discussions focused closely on parents’ mental health; child wellbeing; marital relationships, child-parent relationships; family resilience, coping and family policies, and identified follow-up actions that would serve to strengthen Arab families, including potential collaborations to tackle commonalities. The panel included speakers from the Social & Economic Survey Research Institute at Qatar University; the Family Consulting Center (WIFAQ), Qatar; College of Education at Sultan Qaboos University; Faculty of Social Sciences at Kuwait University; Jordan River Foundation; Jazan University, Saudi Arabia; the Social Research Center at the American University in Cairo; University of Tunis; University of Rabat; and the American University of Beirut.
Lead principal investigator of the Family Life Study, Dr Anis Ben Brik, associate professor at CPP, and founding director of the Programme for Social Policy Evaluation and Research (PROSPER), presented the project overview and results. He said: “Overall, the study confirms that the pandemic has impacted women, children, the elderly, and vulnerable families including those living in conflict areas or as refugees in the Arab region, and is shown to have exacerbated the mental health and wellbeing gap and other pre-existing inequalities. In countries facing political instability or conflict, children’s levels of anxiety are particularly high.”
Dr Ben Brik concluded: “The challenges ahead are clear, and they include the need to carry out extensive further research, and develop global, regional, and national intervention programmes to promote mental health. The seminar, therefore, had the additional purpose of bringing together stakeholders in the Arab region who can jointly identify the necessary interventions and use the evidence to inform the design of policy and support for families in the future.”