A few days ago on Global Dashboard, Mark Weston called for urgent action to respond to the needs of people living in slums during the coronavirus pandemic. The post has gone viral on Facebook, as interest in the subject has begun to intensify.
The Institute for Development Studies published this detailed briefing outlining the challenges facing those working to limit the virus’s impact in informal settlements, and suggesting a number of possible solutions. Clear information and advice, the authors argue, are critical for achieving buy-in to policies from slum residents. Drawing on the lessons of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, moreover, they highlight the need to collaborate with local residents to ensure that stigma doesn’t accelerate the virus’s spread.
In South Africa, the NGO IBP and others have produced this widely-shared flyer to show people living in informal settlements how to use shared taps and toilets without increasing their risk of COVID-19 infection. Another NGO, Slum Dwellers International, is working across Africa, Asia, and Latin America to help prepare communities for the virus.
Mark’s piece was picked up by South Africa’s leading news website, the Mail & Guardian. Last night he was interviewed on Cape Town’s Cape Talk Radio. While in some ways “African countries have been ahead of the game” in bringing in COVID-19 containment measures, he warned that “it will be dangerous if the countries of the Global South imitate those of the Global North” in their approach:
“Countries like South Africa have to develop their own policies, and even within South Africa you will need to have different policies for different informal settlements.”
Mark also made the point that responses in informal settlements will be most effective if they are community-led, with governments playing a key supporting role:
“The answers are going to come from within communities themselves. The community is the first line of defence, but governments can’t just wash their hands of this. They need to give communities what they need, things that they can’t access themselves.”
The podcast of the interview is available here. We hope the momentum will continue to build in the coming days and weeks.