This study assessed implications of the Coronavirus Disease 19 (COVID-19) pandemic on household income and food security in two East African countries – Kenya and Uganda, using online survey data from 442 respondents. Results show that more than two-thirds of the respondents experienced income shocks due to the COVID-19 crisis. Food security and dietary quality worsened, as measured by the food insecurity experience scale and the frequency of consumption of nutritionally-rich foods. The proportion of food insecure respondents increased by 38% and 44% in Kenya and Uganda respectively, and in both countries, the regular consumption of fruits decreased by about 30% during the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to a normal period (before the pandemic). Results from probit regressions show that the income-poor households and those dependent on labour income were more vulnerable to income shock, and had poorer food consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to other respondent categories. As such, they were more likely to employ food-based coping strategies compared to those pursuing alternative livelihoods, who generally relied on savings. Farmers were less likely to experience worsened food security compared to other respondent categories who depended to a great extent on market sources for food. In both countries, participation in national social security schemes was less likely to mitigate respondents’ income shock during the COVID-19 period. Conversely, membership in savings and loan groups was correlated with less likelihood of suffering income shocks and reduction in food consumption. The results suggest that ongoing and future government responses should focus on structural changes in social security by developing responsive packages to cushion members pushed into poverty by such pandemics while building strong financial institutions to support the recovery of businesses in the medium term, and ensuring the resilience of food supply chains particularly those making available nutrient-dense foods.
- More than two-thirds of households experienced income shocks and worsened food security.
- Food security outcomes were worse among the income poor and households dependent on labour income.
- Labour-dependent and income poor households employed food-based coping strategies.
- Membership in savings groups was more likely to mitigate member’s income shocks than NSSF.