Coping with Covid-19 at the community level: resilience and informal crisis management in rural Ghana
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- Studentoppgaver (TN-ISØP) 
The Covid-19 pandemic had forced policymakers to find the appropriate precautionary responses to mitigate the threats associated with it. Unfortunately, such responses have ripple effects on other sectors of society. Such effects could be severe on people, especially the vulnerable in rural communities (Bukari et al., 2021). Therefore, this study aimed to investigate to what extent some rural communities in Ghana were coping with the Covid-19 pandemic. Accordingly, the research questions selected for the study were 1) What are the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on some rural communities in Ghana? 2) What are the resilience strategies adopted by some rural communities in Ghana in their crisis response against the Covid-19 pandemic? And 3) What are the influences of crisis communication and trustworthiness during the Covid-19 pandemic in some rural communities in Ghana?The study focused on available related theories on crisis typologies, crisis response strategies (informal crisis management and resilience), trustworthiness, and crisis communication.The exploratory research design and abductive research strategy were used for this study. Both literature surveys and online/telephone interviews were used to collect data about the Covid-19 pandemic coping strategies in the selected rural societies. An analysis of the literature surveys was used to generate some thematic concepts, which were later used to prepare a semi-structured interview guide to seek the views of thirty local leaders from ten selected rural communities in Ghana. The purposive and convenience sampling techniques were used to select the local leaders consisting of traditional leaders, faith-based leaders, civil society organization leaders, and assembly members. These local leaders were selected because of their vital role in managing the Covid-19 pandemic in their rural communities. At the end of the study, it was identified that the Covid-19 pandemic had both positive and negative impacts on the selected rural communities. However, to a large extent, the negative impacts outweighed the positive impacts. Some of the positive impacts included 1) attention and awareness of good hygienic etiquette, 2) an increase in health capacity to the rural communities, and 3) increased innovative ideas and ways to adjust to the Covid-19 pandemic. The negative impacts included 1) health impacts such as people being sick and losing their lives or losing loved ones, 2) psychological impacts, 3) impact on the educational sector, 4) economic hardship, 5) losing socio-cultural values, 6) increase in social violence, increase in early girl child marriage, and child labor and 7) increase in distrust among policymakers. These negative impacts are more integrated as they have ripple effects on the day-to-day activities of the community members. This had made the less privileged and poor people in the selected rural communities much disadvantaged and much more destitute during this period of the pandemic.The study identified that most respondents were coping with the Covid-19 pandemic in the selected rural communities. These respondents were coping with some precautionary responses to minimize the spread of the virus, such as washing hands regularly, social distancing, wearing a nose mask, avoiding public gatherings, observing the ban on festivals, and eating healthy food. Moreover, the majority of the respondents were involved with the crisis management processes. Most of the respondents were cooperating, collaborating, improvising, compromising, being flexible, and adapting to the safety responses outlined by policymakers. Most of the respondents engaged in a shared responsibility to control the spread of the virus and reduce the negative impacts associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. To achieve these, most of the respondents were being flexible with their socio-cultural values, providing financial support to vulnerable community members, engaging in contact tracing activities, and improvising by being innovative to create their face masks and hand sanitizers. Some of the respondents also indicated that they were facing some challenges relating to 1) the increased economic hardships in their communities; 2) less attention given to their community by policymakers; 3) issues of politics and less engagement of local leaders in the Covid-19 decision-making process; and 4) the continuous spread of false information about the Covid-19 virus in their communities. The study showed that policymakers being trustworthy was necessary for the selected communities to adhere to the precautionary measures. However, trustworthiness alone was not enough since policymakers needed to improve their communication with the selected community members. Therefore, the study identified a nexus between crisis communication and trustworthiness as crisis communication influences policymakers' trustworthiness and vice versa. Crisis communication factors such as openness, transparency, accuracy, consistency, and the timing of sharing information influence trustworthiness in policymakers during crisis management. At the same time, trust-building factors such as involving (collaborating and coordinating) community leaders and members and respecting socio-cultural norms and values of the community influence the willingness of people to listen and accept the crisis responses communicated. Consequently, the study identified that policymakers might find it challenging to implement the safety responses identify for the crisis if other crisis actors cannot make meaning to such responses or distrust the policymakers. Therefore, I have suggested a crisis typology that is based on trustworthiness and crisis communication among crisis actors. I have argued that crisis communication and trust-building are developmental processes that could grow high or low as time goes on. The combinations of the level (rate) of developments (high or low) for both communication and trustworthiness could provide a particular type of crisis at each moment. From such perspective, I have argued that crises could be classified into four namely 1) controllable, 2) uncertain, 3) complex and 4) uncontrollable crises.