Namibian Federation & Namibian Housing Action Group: Responses to COVID-19

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On behalf of the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN) and Namibia Housing Action Group (NHAG) – SDI presents the work to fight COVID-19 across Namibia.

In the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic the Namibian Alliance (Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia and Namibia Housing Action Group (NHAG)) alongside the National Alliance for Informal Settlement Upgrading, have been able to pivot the partnership through facilitating open communication through various channels for communities to receive pertinent updates from local & central government. The Namibian Alliance is positioned as critical to the response plan from the Ministry of Health for community mobilisation and peer to peer learning enabling improved directed health messaging.

Edith Mbanga, Federation leader in Namibia speaks about the community-led responses taken. “As SDFN when COVID-19 came to our ears we look at it as a serious issue that needs to be addressed to make sure our communities understand. With support from NHAG we requested a training from the Ministry of Health & Social Services. Twenty members were trained to educate communities about COVID-19 symptoms and how they can protect themselves from the virus. We are working together with MoH & SS as Federation teams, with homeless people that were living near the river and under the bridges.”

Active cities include the Khomas region, Erongo region, and the Oshana region, with the following priority areas and needs identified: PPE, soaps, hand sanitizers, masks, gloves, buckets and the installation of tippy taps. Food parcels for the households where their source of income has been heavily affected are crucial during lockdown, and for the foreseeable future. Federation have also participated in training in proper hygiene protocols under COVID-19, developing pamphlets and fact sheets being distributed in various languages. The Federation also joined the Psycho-Social Support group led by Ministry of Health & SS to train and deploy volunteers to assist in relocation of street dwellers in Windhoek.

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Edith Mbanga reflects on the economic threat to livelihoods of those in the informal economy as Namibia remains in lockdown until the 4th May 2020. “Because of lockdown, communities who are selling at the markets lost their income – that launched in Namibia this year by Namibian Alliance. We fought for the market to be open with locations for cleaning and sanitizing with authorities at the markets. A team of more than 20 members will educate the informal workers to make the markets clean every morning. They will work at the market 3 days per week. We can use this as an opportunity for us to talk to the people, and hear from them what their plans after lockdown because this is a temporary thing, there is a lot that we are doing.”

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The Standard Bank of Namibia through the Buy-a-Brick initiative with the Namibian Alliance has donated water tanks and hand sanitizers to NHAG for distribution to communities living in informal settlements. The general public is encouraged to make donations into the Standard Buy-a-Brick account for further support in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 in the informal settlements.

Namibia Housing Action Group is a Namibian Service Organisation that aims to support and add value to the activities and processes of the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia in achieving their mission. It strives to facilitate change in the livelihoods of urban and rural poor through pioneering pro-poor development approaches. Community mobilisation, project management & delivery, lobbying & advocacy, financial resilience & asset building, and data & mapping are the core competencies of the Namibian Alliance that they have been developing for over twenty years.

Please keep following SDI as we highlight the initiatives of SDI affiliates across Africa, Asia & Latin America in the fight against COVID-19 to support the most vulnerable throughout this pandemic.

Zambian Federation & PPHPZ: Responses to COVID-19

 

92374573_2612631225681304_7903327264496943104_oOn behalf of the Zambian Federation and People’s Process on Housing and Poverty in Zambia (PPHPZ) – SDI presents the work to fight COVID-19 across Zambia.The following is an account directly from the SDI affiliate in Zambia, alongside updates on the current work of the Zambian Federation & PPHPZ.

Approximately 40% (6 million) Zambians live in urban areas and 70% (4.2 million) of those living in urban areas live in the slums known as “compounds.” The spread of COVID-19 across the globe has been through human to human transmission of individuals traveling from country to country, thus, the misconception is that it is a disease that affects the ‘rich and privileged’. On the contrary, comparatively informal settlement dwellers face a much greater risk to Covid-19. Life in the slums (compounds) is characterized by poor quality housing and inadequate access to clean water and sanitation. If water is available, its either intermittent or of compromised quality. Streets are characterized by overcrowding, and poor planning, with electricity intermittently provided. Another obstacle is limited access to household and public sanitation – this service is crucial in combating the spread of disease such as COVID-19 pandemic. The absence of public toilets curtails and hinders efforts of fighting pandemics as fecal matter can spread diseases in the community.

In Zambia, cases of cholera outbreaks in informal settlements have ceased in the headlines with seasonal outbreaks on yearly basis becoming the norm. During epidemics, slum residents are more vulnerable to respiratory infections owing to the fact that people are overcrowded and congested in their communities & houses without proper ventilation fueling mass spreading of COVID-19. Poverty levels are exceptionally with cases of malnutrition exacerbating chronic infections despite widespread vaccinations and social sensitization programmes. The number of infections in these communities are always double than those in planned, affluent suburbs.

COVID-19 is an exceptionally dangerous due to the fact that it is highly infectious even in asymptomatic patients with no current vaccine or cure. While current statistics demonstrate that confirmed cases are low, with none confirmed cases in the compounds, the ravaging effect the virus would have in the slums would be devastating.

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The global community of health experts have recommended three simple yet fundamental effective tools to combat the spread of the virus and these strategies need to be critically examined to check their efficacy. The Zambian government, in line with the advice from both local and international health experts have recommended the following:

Hand Washing and Sanitizing:

In the context of slums, hand washing can significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19; however, under the current circumstances, this tool will not work unless access to affordable or free water is provided in the informal settlements. In most settlements like Kanyama, the biggest settlement in Zambia, water is still intermittent, inadequate and expensive for the average employed resident. Currently a 20 litre container is pegged at 50 ngwee and on average a family needs at least 200 litres translating to 5 kwacha every day or 150 kwacha per month, a figure which is unaffordable by most residents, where water is also rationed. In George compound, water kiosks are opened at 6.00 – 10.00 and 17.00 to 18.00. To avoid any escalation, taps need to be opened at all times until the virus is defeated.

The situation is worsened by electricity cuts due to maintenance and load shedding and will further deteriorate due to loss of supply from independent suppliers for the next two weeks. Electricity is needed to pump water by water trusts who are charged with the supply of water as well as private borehole owners in most settlements. Without water, curbing the spread of the COVID-19 through hand washing is impossible.  It is time that the Zambian government provides free water in each and every compound.

This strategy will save our government millions of kwachas while saving many lives. It is a travesty that utility companies like Lusaka Water & Sewerage have not yet been directed or capacitated to provide this essential service to the most vulnerable settlements. In the absence of free or affordable clean water, communities will either resort to shallow wells that are heavily contaminated or will opt to use water sparingly thereby not washing hands frequently.

Coupled with provision of free water, should be the provision of hand-washing stations at all public toilets, bus stations, and markets in congested homesteads. The biggest markets like Old Soweto in Lusaka, Masala Market in Ndola, and Chisokone Market in Kitwe should be immediately provided with hand washing facilities and sanitizing agents. Distribution of hand washing stations, sanitisers, soaps needs to be broad based and not simply through locally recognized structures like the Councilor’s Office and the Ward Development Committees. The challenge is bigger than these local structures, grassroots community associations, and savings schemes the likes of the Zambia Homeless and Poor People‘s, but the responsibility of the state. Federations and Cooperatives need to be engaged – involving grassroots associations and savings schemes at the local level is crucial.

Hand washing has been a privilege of medium to high income residents. To exacerbate the exclusion of the poor, almost every shop has quadrupled the price of hand sanitizers owing to the huge demand by those who can afford them. Efforts should be targeted at subsidizing the prices through the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission. There is an opportunity to start working with community-based groups to make homemade sanitizers supporting livelihood initiatives in these troubled times.

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Social distancing i.e. staying at home, closing schools, isolating the sick, keeping at least 1 meter apart, and avoiding hugging and shaking hands:

Social distancing is currently the least expensive and the most affordable tool to each and every individual; however, in mostly densely populated communities, it is almost unavoidable. Closing the markets and the shops could trigger serious financial security issues as people are likely to starve due to food shortages. Most residents cannot afford to buy food in advance, as they live hand to mouth. A lock down without the possibility of working will cause serious resistance from these vulnerable communities. This demands that people should continue trading but alongside serious protective mechanisms.

Wearing Protective Gear:

Face masks can assist in reducing infection rates of COVID-19 if they are available and affordable. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19, face masks have significantly increased in price with poor people have been cut out off completely in accessing masks. An opportunity exists to work with grassroots community groups, savings schemes and cooperatives in the mass production of masks produced with chitenge materials. Government and cooperating partners should channel support to the grassroots to produce masks, as this will inevitably drastically reduce and eliminate the exaggerated prices currently prevailing in the market. A chitenge made mask can be washed and disinfected everyday ensuring that they are accessible to the masses, while providing a sustainable solution.

Overall, it can be seen that efforts to combat the virus should be broad based and all inclusive; organized grassroots associations & savings schemes ought to be at the center of fighting the pandemic, not just health workers or government alone. Any solution being proffered has to be within the reach of the most vulnerable. Water, as a matter of urgency needs to be provided for free by state, private sector and individuals who have their own boreholes. Let’s not make a mistake mistake of making community members mere beneficiaries and health workers and government are seen as the only actors in the fight.

Currently the Zambian Federation & PPHPZ is working closely with the Lusaka City Council & Ministry of Health. They have mobilised sed youth teams in creating COVID-19 related content (videos, posters, jingles, etc.) translated into local languages circulated on social media platforms, local radio stations to sensitize communities. Federation savings & youth members have been trained as hygiene stewards to champion community-led initiatives to educate and distribute hand sanitizers, masks, gloves and liquid soap. PPHPZ has identified local schools, churches and community halls as potential warehouses, distribution centers and spaces to accommodate infected people. The Lusaka Federation will use its Resource Centre in George Township for warehousing food and other essential materials.

Please keep following SDI as we highlight the initiatives of SDI affiliates across Africa, Asia & Latin America in the fight against COVID-19 to support the most vulnerable throughout this pandemic.

Nigerian Federation & JEI: Responses to COVID-19

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On behalf of the Nigerian Slum/Informal Settlement Federation and Justice & Empowerment Initiatives (JEI) – SDI presents the work to fight COVID-19 across Nigeria.

Over a month ago, the Nigerian Federation with support of JEI, began rapidly preparing to address the impending spread of COVID-19. Through cancelling all meetings, creating handwashing stations, distributing flyers in multiple languages, Federation tailors sewing 2,500 face masks and producing hand sanitiser – a multi-scale approach was taken to address the critical needs of the most vulnerable while warning communities of the imminent crisis. Over 16,000 informational flyers were printed and distributed in communities across Lagos in English, Hausa, Igbo, Egun and Yoruba, with 7,000 across Port Harcourt.

Assisting those most at risk – older, immune-compromised, homeless, indigent, immigrant/migrant Federation members to clinics to get tested when symptoms appear, while ensuring that there are no barriers to access due to language, cost, nor demographic – remains of utmost priority to the Federation.

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At this time, Lagos is three weeks into lockdown, food is still scarce and government programmes remain to be seen for 2/3 of the population living in informal settlements. Mohammed (Vagabond) Zanna reflects on the precarious position of Federations, and more broadly, the urban poor with the lack of plans and proper response.

“We are doing our best as the Federation, in Nigeria, as an affiliate of SDI. We are creating awareness, making face masks, sourcing food donations, but it is not enough. From our side, it is not enough, the government needs to do more. What they give, is not enough for that person, and their family to eat. It is not enough. We are caught between Coronavirus and hunger, if we stay home, we starve, if we go outside, we stand the risk of catching COVID-19, and spreading it to our families, and also our communities. This is the situation, and there is serious tension. Something needs to be done.”

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The ongoing work of information dissemination is crucial and focuses on social distancing that is tailored to the realities of living in informal settlements, recognizing symptoms, contacting government hotlines, and pushing back on false & dangerous information that has been simultaneously spreading. The communications includes regular WHO updates & recommendations, health education talks, and WhatsApp information campaign. These information campaigns are crucial to ensure updated and reliable information is reaching those most at risk, and to guarantee Federation experiences are being accurately shared.

Corona Diaries of the Urban Poor (#C19DiariesOfTheUrbanPoor) is a citizen journalism series that details COVID-19 pandemic at the intersection of urban poverty detailing the lived realities of slum communities told by current residents across Nigeria & Benin. With a mix of audio and visual mediums, and data conducted by the Federation in Nigeria & Benin, real-time stories are being developed. To continue following their work please check out the following social handles, Facebook, and Twitter: @vagabonkingdom @NaijaFederation @justempower – all above media can also be found on the JEI website with continued updated on the Corona Diaries page.

Please keep following SDI as we highlight the initiatives of SDI affiliates across Africa, Asia & Latin America in the fight against COVID-19 to support the most vulnerable throughout this pandemic.

Ghanaian Federation & People’s Dialogue: Responses to COVID-19

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On behalf of the Ghanian Federation of the Urban Poor and People’s Dialogue on Human Settlements – SDI presents the work to fight COVID-19 across Accra.

A community-led management and response to the COVID-19 pandemic (CLeMRoC) is being actioned in collaboration with Accra Municipal Assembly, and other civil society organisations has been launched in Accra. The response team consists of community leaders, environmental health officers of Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA). Led by the Federation in Ghana, they are supported by People’s Dialogue on Human Settlements.

The aim of CLeMRoC is is to enhance sensitization, education and behavior change in people living in informal settlements and to influence the community response of the pandemic. The target communities within Accra include: Old Fadama, Osu Alata, Sabon Zongo, Agbogbloshie, Madina, Sukura, Ashaiman, Nungua, Teshie with ongoing work in several other communities.

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Farouk Braimah, Executive Director at People’s Dialogue, reflects on the dire impacts that COVID-19 will have on informal settlements, shedding light on the ongoing pervasive issues of a severe lack of service delivery to the most vulnerable.

“When it comes to hygiene protection, why do we think this time it will work? It is about hygiene, washing hands, eating well, resting – these are the protocols, and there is nothing new about this. They have never worked in slums//informal settlements. How do we find solutions that respond to our unusual circumstances, that work in the informal settlements?”

CLeMRoC has formed an interim Community Coordination Centre (CCC) where all issues against the fight of COVID-19 will be anchored. These include: external relations, messaging via various formats, knowledge management, documentation, dissemination of learning & lessons, and interfacing with officials collaborating on efforts to support communities through participatory planning & advocacy. Also coordinating supplies, resource mobilization and media work.

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The priority needs emerge as pre-existing challenges that are further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are limited existing health facilities and resources to manage and care for affected patients. As of 24th March 2020, when CLeMRoC was launched, the following items were of urgent need in relation to health (PPE) such as: masks and gloves, tissues, tippy taps, veronica buckets, soap & hand sanitizers. With the need to improve PPE on all levels, especially personal hygiene protection, hand washing training on developing tippy taps and veronica bucket with taps. Ongoing needs for food assistance to those whose livelihoods are impacted and funds for volunteers who are working on trainings in the community remain fundamental to the Federation’s response.

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Community members being sensitized on Tippy Taps.

Please keep following SDI as we highlight the initiatives of SDI affiliates across Africa, Asia & Latin America in the fight against COVID-19 to support the most vulnerable throughout this pandemic.