COVID-19, Chronic Conditions and Structural Poverty: A Social Psychological Assessment of the Needs of a Marginalized Community in Accra, Ghana


  • Ama de-Graft Aikins
  • Olutobi Sanuade
  • Leonard Baatiema
  • Paapa Yaw Asante
  • Francis Agyei
  • Vida Asah-Ayeh
  • Jemima A. O. Okai
  • Annabella Osei-Tutu
  • Kwadwo Koram


In the African region COVID-19 infection and death rates are increasing (writing in May 2020), most deaths have occurred among individuals with chronic conditions, and poor communities face higher risks of infection and socio-economic insecurities. We assessed the psychosocial needs of a chronic illness support group in Accra, Ghana, within the context of their broader community. The community lives in structural poverty and has a complex burden of infectious and chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Between March and May 2020, we conducted interviews, group discussions, and surveys, with members of the support group and their caregivers, frontline healthcare workers, and religious and community leaders. Data was analysed through the social psychology of participation framework. Community members understood COVID-19 as a new public health threat and drew on eclectic sources of information to make sense of this. Members of the support group had psychosocial and material needs: they were anxious about infection risk as well as money, food and access to NCD treatment. Some community members received government food packages during the lockdown period. This support ended after lockdown in April and while anti-poverty COVID policies have been unveiled they have yet to be implemented. We discuss the impact of these representational, relational and power dynamics on the community’s access to COVID-19 and NCD support. We argue that strategies to address immediate and post-COVID needs of vulnerable communities have to focus on the politics and practicalities of implementing existing rights-based policies that intersect health, poverty reduction and social protection.