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The emergence of COVID-19 has profoundly affected mental health, especially among highly vulnerable populations. This study describes mental health issues among caregivers of young children and pregnant women in three urban informal settlements in Kenya during the first pandemic year, and factors associated with poor mental health. A cross-sectional telephone survey was administered to 845 participants. Survey instruments included the Patient Health Questionnaire-9, General Anxiety Disorder-7 scale, COVID-19 Anxiety Scale, and questions on the perceived COVID-19 effects on caregiver wellbeing and livelihood. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, and univariate and multivariate analysis. Caregivers perceived COVID-19 as a threatening condition (94.54%), affecting employment and income activities (>80%). Caregivers experienced discrimination (15.27%) and violence (12.6%) during the pandemic. Levels of depression (34%), general anxiety (20%), and COVID-19 related anxiety (14%) were highly prevalent. There were significant associations between mental health outcomes and economic and socio-demographic factors, violence and discrimination experiences, residency, and perceptions of COVID-19 as a threatening condition. Caregivers high burden of mental health problems highlights the urgent need to provide accessible mental health support. Innovative and multi-sectoral approaches will be required to maximize reach to underserved communities in informal settlements and tackle the root causes of mental health problems in this population.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Environ Res Public Health

Publication Date





COVID-19, COVID-19 anxiety scale, Kenya, general anxiety disorder-7 scale, mental health, patient health questionnaire-9, telephone cross-sectional survey, urban informal settlements, Anxiety, COVID-19, Caregivers, Child, Child, Preschool, Cross-Sectional Studies, Depression, Female, Humans, Kenya, Mental Health, Pandemics, Pregnancy, SARS-CoV-2, Telephone