Over the past two months, the South African SDI Alliance has taken action in various municipalities where they are active to implement effective preventative measures to slow the spread of Covid-19 in South Africa’s informal settlements. The SA SDI Alliance’s has worked in partnership with civil society actors, development partners, and local and regional government, to jointly develop and implement Covid-19 responses in the City of Cape Town, Swartland Municipality, Stellenbosch Municipality, eThekwini Municipality, and with the National Department of Human Settlements (NUSP). Every week, representatives of the South African SDI Alliance participate in discussions between various civil society organisations and the Department of Human Settlements to develop effective partnerships and strategies to combat Covid-19 in South Africa’s informal settlements.
As of early April 2020, the SA SDI Alliance had already engaged national and provincial government on the development and dissemination of a targeted information campaign that includes the development of materials specifically targeting the realities of informal settlement dwellers and providing practical advice around measures that can be taken to reduce risk of exposure (See example below which has been produced in all local languages). In addition, quick snap data collection has taken place in various informal settlements during the crisis to assess communities’ ability to access clean water, frequency of toilet cleaning and refuse removal.
Following the initial response phase, the SA SDI Alliance decided on seven strategic focus areas:
- Improve internal & external SASDI Alliance communication infrastructure;
- Safeguard physical and psychological well-being of social movement leadership;
- Identify basic service delivery challenges & monitor service delivery in informal settlements;
- Organize structures in informal settlements that can receive and distribute food parcels;
- Behaviour Change Communication Campaign;
- Lobby & advocacy at national, provincial and municipal government level and raising community voice;
- Monitoring, Reflection, Learning & Documentation.
One of the most critical areas identified by the SA SDI Alliance is food security, as many informal settlement residents are struggling to earn an income – and therefore buy food – during the country’s prolonged national lockdown. The Alliance has been working with other social development organisations to access and distribute food parcels to urban poor communities, and has begun to explore urban farming as an effective solution for informal settlement residents. In Cape Town’s Mfuleni settlement, residents have started gardens where they are able to grow fruits and vegetables for their families, and as a potential source of income.
In addition to the work being done to address food security, the SA Alliance has rolled out relief work to build hand washing stations, and make and distribute face masks, hand sanitiser and hand soap to their own federation members and the communities at large. In addition, they have made efforts to educate their members on how to make these at home in order to facilitate better use of these preventative measures.
Most importantly, the SA Alliance is continuing to dialogue internally to ensure that the needs of communities on the ground are being heard and that these continue to be communicated to relevant government structures through feedback sessions between the Alliance and local, provincial, and national government structures. As Rose Molokoane, national coordinator of Fedup, said recently, “It is important for them to talk to us, we have raised concerns, we want them to come back to Federations to get what we requested.”