The South African COVID-19 Vulnerability Index Dashboard is an online mapping tool developed to reflect the vulnerability of South Africa’s citizens to COVID-19 according to their specific location.
The dashboard employs data from the South African Census of 2011 and segments it according to eight indicators related to, labor force activity, access to media, household services, overcrowding, multigenerational status, age, and chronic illness.
On 5 March 2021, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa declared COVID-19 a “national disaster.” But, as the pandemic has made clear, a national issue does not guarantee an equal degree of impact across the country.
Faced with a threat to national health systems and public services, the South African government facilitated a solution equivalent to the severity of the issue in the form of a targeted response and mitigation initiative.
The South African COVID-19 Vulnerability Index Dashboard is an online mapping tool developed by Statistics South Africa to reflect the vulnerability of South Africa’s citizens to COVID-19 according to their specific location. The dashboard employs data from the South African Census of 2011 and segments it according to eight indicators related to: labor force activity, access to media, household services, overcrowding, multigenerational status, age, and chronic illness. Despite it being a ten-year-old data source, project team member Helen North, Chief Director at Statistics Africa, revealed it was successful in its mission.
By determining the populations most at risk to the virus, the dashboard enables the government to work ahead of the virus and finetune interventions that are catered towards the most vulnerable, in turn, ensuring no one gets left behind.
For communities located at the intersection of multiple indicators of vulnerability, the Vulnerability Index allows the government to budget and administer resources to these communities that need it the most. North concurred, noting that “with Covid-19 vaccines in short supply, government need to prioritize distribution and the index could be used to highlight and target the most vulnerable communities.”
Plainly, pre-existing social and health inequalities greatly contribute to a variation on COVID-19 mortality and initiatives as such work towards mitigating the impacts of societal disruption. For instance, individuals experiencing vulnerable conditions such as overcrowding in housing and informal labor are pushed to the center on recovery efforts with the assistance of this tool.
Unfortunately, as data is limited to 2011, the extent to which vulnerability is understood in a particular community is limited because it does not reflect changes in living conditions, population movements, and other factors. To truly ensure we leave no one behind and fulfil the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the key is to advance comprehensive data that efficiently captures the realities of those furthest behind.
For the next steps, we must encourage all-inclusive and disaggregated data that captures all vulnerabilities. This effectively works against simplistic conclusions and rather, full transparency that is critical for robust and all-encompassing policy responses. To fully measure the “depth” of vulnerability, everybody must be counted.
This article was written with support from the UN World Data Forum Secretariat. Read additional SDG Knowledge Hub stories about the UN World Data Forum, data impact, and news.