Pay attention to informal settlements during lockdown

Monday May 18 2020



Simon J. Mone

Simon J. Mone  

By Simon J. Mone

Before the end of 2019, the most popular metropolis around the world were the epitome of elegance and lifestyle.

These cities started small, and grew and developed steadily. They made their names over a long time and became the most frequently visited destinations by tourists, students and business people.

But between January and March this year, a strange thing happened. A new story was written globally. Covid-19 arrived, and it spread from one famous city to another, thanks to aero-technology. In days, weeks and months, no country was without a pinch.
These famous cities of the world caught the stubborn flu. Air transport was completely distorted, to make tourism impossible. Travels for other purposes cannot happen as well.
Every government is now trying to get its people out of this difficult situation, as the pandemic continues to show its ugly face. Citizens are locked out from their daily routines.

And streets of the affluent cities, as well as those of the poor ones, remain deserted.

So far, five months of enduring the pandemic has seen its epicentre shift from Asia to Europe to America-North to America-South. Now, predictors of doom are all eyes on Africa. They say if mother Africa does not take accurate steps to manage the pandemic, could see it suffer the worst catastrophe ever.

Already, we are seeing how African governments are partnering with the private sector and well wishers to try to mitigate the damage being caused by Covid-19. Information, Education and Communication (IEC) approaches have been used to pass prevention messages to every community, including the urban, rural and even to informal settlements.

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But we know that fighting the virus is more than giving knowledge. We must pay special attention, especially to the people living in informal settlements.

Nearly all cities and urban centres have informal settlements commonly referred to as slums.

The countryside where refugees are resettled have got settlement patterns that are not as resilient to disease-causing conditions, not just the Covid-19. That is why we have to worry.
If we don’t, these communities could end up being the frontline of a major health disaster, Covid-19 and others. It is estimated that one billion people in the world are resident in informal settlements. Therefore, implementing disease prevention measures should be mandatory.

Already, governments are taking some good steps to provide items such as relief food and water for hand-washing at specific locations of these settlements. However, the items need be a complete package, and must reach every resident in the informal settlement. It would be a major step if these residents are provided with a whole set of sanitation and hygiene kits.

Settlers in informal homes find it tough to access sanitation kits; soap, clean water, disinfectants and face masks. If these can be provided, it would go a long way in addressing hygiene and sanitation issues.

Dealing with informal settlements will continue to be a major challenge for years to come, for which we must pay close attention.

The ongoing health crisis is an additional reminder of our obligation to assist those whose lives are clearly in danger. Help the people living in informal settlements to be able to implement preventive measures.

Restrict movements and reduce overcrowding in displacement settlements so that congestion due to overcrowding at communal facilities like water points and other sanitation facilities is eliminated.

Mr Mone is a civil engineer
smone@mail.com

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