Tanzania SDI Alliance Response to Covid-19


On behalf of the the Tanzania SDI Alliance, SDI presents the work to fight COVID-19 in Tanzania. The following is an account from the SDI affiliate in Tanzania, with updates on the current work of theTanzania federation and CCI.



The Tanzania Urban Poor Federation together with the Centre for Community Initiatives (CCI) have been carrying out awareness campaigns in Dar es Salaam slum communities for the past eight weeks. The aim of the Tanzania SDI Alliance’s COVID-19 awareness campaign is to educate urban poor communities about the realities of this pandemic, from symptoms to prevention measures and more.

As of mid-April, Tanzania had reported 153 cases of Covid-19. The awareness campaign commenced in Dar es salaam because of its vulnerability to rapid spread of Covid-19 resulting from high population densities and its role as the economic centre of Tanzania. Moreover, Dar es Salaam is home to the only hospital with dedicated Covid-19 facilities.

The Tanzania federation in collaboration and CCI started by identifying the community team who will be providing trainings to other community members and communities that will be targeted. This was followed by the training of a team of eight federation members, many of whom are youth, and two CCI staff members. This team was trained by Temeke Municipal Health officials in order to conduct trainings themselves.

Following this training, an awareness campaign on Covid-19 prevention (for example, frequent hand washing) was rolled out in Kurasini informal settlement in Temeke Municipality with the Kurasini ward health officer participating actively in the campaign roll-out. Having planned to roll out this campaign elsewhere, the Tanzania alliance has (as of 27 May 2020) scaled their Covid-19 awareness and prevention work to Dodoma, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar, reaching eighteen informal settlements and at least 15,000 people.  


The first place that the Tanzania Alliance carried out its awareness campaign was in Dar’s Kurasini settlement. This included a training of community health workers by Department of Health officials followed by a community education training for the wider community. Both trainings aimed at creating awareness of Covid 19 symptoms, preventative measures, and actions to take when affected with  Covid 19.

The federation / CCI team used a number of methods to try to reach the largest number of people safely. This included use of a megaphone, visiting people house to house while maintaining a 2 meter distance, and use of banners and posters containing educational messaging. In addition to creating awareness, the Tanzania Alliance has made washing buckets, soap and sanitisers available to the Kurasini community.


This initial awareness campaign in Kurasini was very successful, and set the stage for additional campaigns to be carried out in other cities. The partnership created between the municipality and the Tanzania SDI Alliance made it possible for them to work together to reach larger numbers of people, and for the government’s efforts to be aligned with those of the federation.

Despite their overall success, the Tanzania Alliance has faced a number of challenges in scaling up the campaign. They have not been able to afford sufficient quantities of hand washing buckets, sanitisers, or soap to reach the entire population. In addition, they found that many in the communities struggled to take the pandemic seriously and exhibited a passive attitude with regards to the suggested precautions for individuals or in public spaces such as markets. Hopefully the Tanzania Alliance and government will be able to work together to increase awareness effectively.


Although Tanzania did not institute a lockdown as many countries have, the day-to-day experience of many urban poor residents has been impacted. With many businesses closing and people working from home, daily wage earners have struggled to make ends meet during this time:

I am a tailor located in Mtambani settlement in Vingunguti, Dar es salaam. During Ramadan towards Eid celebrations  I always earn a lot of money due to the number of clothes that I am supposed to make (approximately 100 orders for Eid), but this year with COVID 19 has been so challenging that its nearly Eid and I haven’t got so much orders so far. I only have this suit (showing the suit) to make before Eid and I don’t see any sign of having more orders, this is a serious economic disaster that I have ever experienced  since I have been a tailor’’ 

‘’As a local food vendor, the COVID 19 has destroyed my business and affects my economic status as I receive very few customers in a day as very few people come to work, imagine before Covid 19 I use to cook 6kilograms of  baking flours in a day but currently I only make 2 kilograms in a day, as there are no enough customers at  my business areas worrying about COVID 19’’

“I am a mother of three working in 3 star hotel in Dar es salaam, since the ban of the international flight our hotel doesn’t receive any visitors. So the management decided to close the hotel and we are not paid till we open and start working. This has real got me into stress and debts, as I never had enough saving and its Ramadan where I spend a lot of money on food this has been the most challenging time of my life, just praying the Covid 19 ends and I get back to work and start getting back my salary’’


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.

Malawi SDI Alliance Response to Covid-19

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On behalf of the the Malawi Federation of the Urban & Rural Poor and The Centre for Community Organization & Development (CCODE)SDI presents the work to fight COVID-19 in Malawi. 


On Thursday, April 2, President of the republic of Malawi confirmed the country’s first three cases of COVID-19. On the same day, the president declared a state of emergency. In view of this directive, schools and universities have been closed since Monday, March 23. Authorities have also banned public gatherings of more than 100 people, which applies to weddings, funerals, religious congregations, rallies, and government meetings. Security forces have been deployed to enforce the restrictions.

In Malawi, 75% of the urban population live in informal settlements (NSO 2018). Conditions in informal settlements are grossly inadequate at the best of times. Many residents live without access to on-site water or sanitation, people live in over-crowded housing, and are facing the constant threat of forced eviction. Hand-washing, disinfecting surfaces, physical distancing and quarantine for those infected – essential elements of COVID19 prevention – are often impossible for residents of these communities. In addition, residents of informal settlements often do not have access to accurate information and, in cases where such information is provided, the information is provided using male-dominated channels.

Furthermore, the measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have disrupted livelihood activities for many of these communities. As normal economic activity comes to a halt, the vulnerability of low-paid and daily wage workers in the country has intensified to the point that many are struggling to survive. People most at risk of being impoverished by Covid-19 are those who fall between the cracks of most social protection systems: the people living in informal settlements and working in the informal economy.

It is against this background that the Malawi SDI Alliance has been supporting informal settlements in the cities of Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu. The communities are being supported with daily access to information as provided by the government and entrepreneurship skills in the COVID-19 crisis, as many businesses are folding. The communities are also being provided with COVID-19 prevention equipment such as face masks, hand washing buckets, and hand sanitisers.

Below is an update of the progress that has been made in supporting informal settlements with information on COVID-19.

  • All 35 federation groups in Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu now have hand washing equipment. Cities were prioritised because that’s where the first cases were reported . Federation savings groups continue to meet and conduct their savings, loans and group entrepreneurial activities in compliance with government regulation. Plans are underway for the federation’s tailoring groups to produce masks to be sold at a reduced price to federation members and to scale up these efforts throughout Malawi.
  • The Malawi Alliance worked with the Lilongwe District Health Office to spread Covid-19 awareness messages to ten informal settlements in Lilongwe City (population roughly 30,000) using a public address system that can effectively reach large numbers of people. The Alliance hopes to enter into partnership with District Health Offices (DHO) in other cities to carry out similar work in those areas.
  • Community leaders from 24 informal settlements in Lilongwe City were capacitated with knowledge and skills on how to disseminate COVID-19   messages to their communities. These capacity building sessions were specifically targeting informal settlements where DHO officers were being chased away. These communities do not believe that COVID-19 is real or that there are confirmed cases in Malawi. Many continue to hang on to unfounded conspiracy theories about the disease, putting themselves and their communities at high risk of contracting and spreading the virus. So far, a total of 480 community leaders from 24 informal settlements in Lilongwe city have participated in these sessions. The Alliance aims to scale up efforts by conducting similar sessions in cities and towns across Malawi.
  • Media efforts carried out by the Malawi Know Your City TV team to raise awareness with youth, including: production of six short videos depicting how the COVID-19 pandemic  has affected the informal trader, the girl child, and other vulnerable groups in informal settlements; posters on COVID-19 messages produced and shared in various platforms; and dissemination of awareness messages across various social media channels. Federation youth groups  are also engaging  their fellow youth gathering and other community platforms to disseminate these knowledge materials. The alliance has also collaborated  with  a famous Musician among the youth population to produce a song on COVID-19 prevention. The Lilongwe District Health Office has agreed to train Federation youth on Theatre for Behaviour change and Development, and will provide support on the production of a music video on COVID-19.
  • The Malawi Alliance  has partnered with The Mzuzu City Council to support federation leadership in the Northen region with COVID-19 prevention measures.  These leaders have been tasked with the role of spreading the COVID-19 messages within their communities.

The Malawi SDI Alliance plans to continue efforts to raise awareness around the COVID-19 pandemic and provide support for the communities they serve. They are actively seeking additional support from donor partners and working with government to reach as many people as they can in Malawi’s informal settlements.


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.

South Africa Response to Covid-19

[caption id="attachment_13089" align="alignnone" width="660"]Serving food to the communities On behalf of the the South African SDI AllianceSDI presents the work to fight COVID-19 in South Africa. The following is an account from the SDI affiliate in South Africa, with updates on the current work of the South African SDI Alliance. [/caption]


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:

  1. Improve internal & external SASDI Alliance communication infrastructure;
  2. Safeguard physical and psychological well-being of social movement leadership;
  3. Identify basic service delivery challenges & monitor service delivery in informal settlements;
  4. Organize structures in informal settlements that can receive and distribute food parcels;
  5. Behaviour Change Communication Campaign;
  6. Lobby & advocacy at national, provincial and municipal government level and raising community voice;
  7. 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.

[caption id="attachment_13088" align="alignnone" width="660"]Residents wait for food parcels in Kwa Zulu Natal province Residents wait for food parcels in Kwa Zulu Natal province[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_13089" align="alignnone" width="660"]Serving food to the communities Serving food to the communities[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_13090" align="alignnone" width="660"]Food parcels await distribution in North West Province Food parcels await distribution in North West Province[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_13092" align="alignnone" width="660"]Distributing food parcels in North West Distributing food parcels in North West[/caption]


[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="660"]Urban farming in Mfuleni, Cape Town Urban farming in Mfuleni, Cape Town[/caption]







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.

[caption id="attachment_13094" align="alignnone" width="660"]Making hand sanitiser in North West Province Making hand sanitiser in North West Province[/caption]


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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.”


[video width="640" height="352" mp4="https://sdinetorg-1c78b.kxcdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/WhatsApp-Video-2020-05-21-at-14.43.50.mp4"][/video]


Liberia Federation Response to Covid-19

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On behalf of the Federation of Liberia Urban Poor Savers and YMCA Liberia – SDI presents the work to fight COVID-19 in Liberia.

Malnutrition and disease means COVID – 19 could be more deadly in Africa than elsewhere in the world. Health systems in Sub-Saharan Africa, including in Liberia, have limited capacity to absorb large numbers of patients made sick by the pandemic. The impacts of COVID-19 will have profound human, social, and economic consequences for millions of urban poor in Liberia. The Federation of Liberia Urban Poor Savers (FOLUPS) and the YMCA are working together on mitigation activities in a number of slums across Liberia’s capital city, Monrovia. These include West Point, Clara Town, Cow Field, Blamo Town, and King Peter communities, with activities targeting approximately 170,000 people, as per a recent community profile conducted. Most of these slum communities have limited access to basic water and sanitation services. These conditions, combined with high population densities, are likely to contribute to the person to person contact rates of COVID-19 and result in exponential rates of infection in these cities.

As of mid-May 2020, health authorities in Liberia reported 229 confirmed cases, 22 death, and 123 recovered.  The Ministry of Health’s capacity to provide critical care is still unknown, as severe forms of COVID-19 leads to respiratory failure which requires ventilators, uninterrupted electricity, and oxygen. It is unclear whether Liberia’s government health system has the capacity to provide this level of support, especially for large numbers of people. At the moment, Liberia’s Intensive Care Units (ICU) have limited ventilators, unstable electricity and limited personal protective equipment for health care workers. Because of this limited capacity to absorb the pandemic it is critical that efforts are taken to contain the number of cases and rate of spread of the disease. As such, the overall strategic approach to address Covid-19 will focus on containment and aggressive preventive measures.

In Liberia, as in many countries, government instituted a lockdown in order to contain Covid-19. While this is an effective measure, the impacts of lockdown can be devastating for urban poor communities who rely on daily income for basic needs such as water, electricity and food. Containment and preventive measures require adequate preparation, creativity and innovative ideas in collaboration with these communities to avoid severe impacts to these communities for whom a few days’ lockdown can mean the difference between poverty and starvation.

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The Ministry of Youth and Sports has appointed YMCA on the COVID-19 National Youth Task Force. This puts FOLUPS in a better position to receive first-hand information, training and updates on government and civil society interventions and strategy.  As the supporting NGO to the Federation of Liberia Urban Poor Savers (FOLUPS), YMCA is collaborating with the Ministry of Health, Cities Alliance and LIFT Liberia to provide initial engagement and awareness support through women-led savings groups, community youth advocates, and peer educators groups. In order to expand the current community level engagement as a bottom-up behavior change process, FOLUPS through the YMCA has sought to expand the ongoing awareness and support services to targeted urban slum communities in Monrovia. These efforts include:

  • Collaborate with the Ministry of Health to increase awareness of preventative measures required to contain the spread of COVID-19. This includes identifying and preparing communities for measures to decrease risks, and taking action to protect vulnerable groups, such as older people and those with underlying health conditions;
  • Distribute flyers, hand washing buckets, disinfectants, sanitizers, soap and chlorine at public facilities and major locations;
  • Engage in advocacy activities with government at settlement and city level for the early dissemination of information to affected communities in order to minimize threats of evictions and counterproductive closures of essential informal services during periods of lockdown or protracted national emergency. This includes ensuring that the fundamental rights of affected and target population groups are safeguarded, that they have access to testing and healthcare services, and that they are included in national strategies to receive information and assistance from government. Additionally, COVID-19 awareness activities will aim to prevent, anticipate and address risks of violence, discrimination, marginalization and xenophobia towards people of concern.

YMCA and FOLUPS will work as the coordinating body to engage in the co-development and delivery of the above project activities. Existing collaborating partnerships and working relationships with government officials and community structures will determine the extent to which YMCA will be able to operate freely and effectively. Capacity building will be provided by MOH and YMCA where required, in order to smoothly implement this project activities and transition to the level of community ownership for safety prevention/containment of COVID-19.

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.

Kenya Community Health Volunteers Reflect on Covid-19

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VIDEO: Community Health Worker Reflects on Covid-19 in Mukuru, Kenya

In this KYC-TV Kenya production , Alice Wanini, a community health volunteer (CHV) in Mukuru Kwa Reuben and member of Muungano wa Wanavijiji, describes the challenges her team faces as they attempt to educate and screen residents for Covid-19.

Alice describes how difficult it is to encourage preventative measures such as social distancing and frequent hand washing in overcrowded slums such as Mukuru, where 10 sqm shacks house families of ten or more and long lines at hand washing stations leave people frustrated. Adding to this is the rampant misinformation about the virus and a lack of adequate personal protection equipment (PPE) for the health workers.

Across the slums where SDI works, federations are working with communities to build hand washing stations, supply food packages, educate residents about how to stay safe, and collect slum data in order to partner with government to provide effective solutions.

Follow KYC-TV on Facebook for regular media coverage of SDI federations’ responses to Covid-19 on the ground, and SDI’s Facebook page for updates from the federations.


Responses to COVID 19: Uganda Federation & ACTogether Uganda

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Cities and Infrastructure for Growth (CIG) programme in Uganda, in collaboration with Cities Alliance, AcTogether and PLAVU, have partnered to support vulnerable communities in Nakawa market and Kinawataka and Kasokoso areas that are facing challenges arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. For more on this work, click here. 


On behalf of the the National Slum Dweller Federation of Uganda (NSDFU) and ACTogether UgandaSDI presents the work to fight COVID-19 in Uganda. The following is an account from the SDI affiliate in Uganda, with updates on the current work of the Uganda federation and ACTogether.

Under the best of conditions slum dwellers live from hand to mouth. With outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in Uganda, the national government has, through the Ministry of Health (MoH), issued a series of guidelines to curb its spread throughout the country. This includes a freeze on much of the economic activity slum dwellers rely on for their incomes. Even though these guidelines are vital in curbing the spread of the virus, their implementation is expected to have an adverse effect on the millions of Ugandans living in slums. For weeks, many will have to survive without income and will likely be unable to sustain themselves or their families.

Slum dwellers are in a catch-22: their already vulnerable position is made worse  even before the virus reaches their community. If not addressed, this desperate situation will likely lead to a rise in lawlessness, violence and crime. The Uganda SDI Alliance, comprised of the National Slum Dweller Federation of Uganda (NSDFU) and ACTogether Uganda, has put together a set of proposed interventions to support the communities of the urban poor where they are active. Below is a detailed description of the proposed interventions:

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Support Health Centres in Informal Settlements (Target: 13 Health Centres)

Select health centres located in slum settlements and serving the population there will be supported with equipment and tools, enabling frontline medical workers to execute their duties safely. These include: face masks, examination and surgical gloves, disinfectant, hand sanitiser, and hand-washing soap.

The Health centres to be supported are; Kisugu (Makindye), Kitebi (Makindye), Kisenyi (Kampala Central), Kiswa (Nakawa), Kawala (Kawempe), Nabweru (Kawempe), Komamboga (Kawempe), in Kampala; Wakiso Health Centre (Wakiso Town Council; and DANIDA (Masese), Kibugambata (Masese), Kimaka, Mpumudde and Walukuba in Jinja.

Support to Sanitation Units in Informal Settlements (Target: 6 Sanitation Units)

Access to clean water and safe, hygienic sanitation facilities is a major challenge for slum dwellers globally, resulting in health risks such as diarrhea and dehydration that pose threats to millions daily. With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, yet another risk has been added to the list with the virus passing via contaminated surfaces and handwashing being one of the best preventative measures to avoid infection.

Over the years, the Uganda SDI Alliance has set up water and sanitation Units in a number of informal settlements across Kampala, Jinja and beyond. These have been instrumental in not only extending affordable water and sanitation to slum communities but also providing communities with meeting space. The sanitation units are located in markets and densely populated settlements with each serving between 200 and 300 people daily. Therefore, it is essential that they are well-equipped to control the spread of Covid-19, along with a number of other waterborne diseases that threaten millions of lives daily.  Each sanitation will be equipped with an external hand washing tank, liquid hand-washing soap, disinfectants, sanitisers, and face-masks and gloves for the caretaker.

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Information, Communication and Education Materials

Essential in the effort to curb the spread of the corona virus is access to credible information on how individuals can protect themselves and their families from getting infected. To this end, information, education and communication materials have been developed from the general messages issued by Ministry of Health and customised to respond to the conditions of informal settlements, such as the use of shared facilities like water points and toilets. This is vital to counter misinformation about the symptoms, spread, and prevention of the virus. The messages will be pictorial and placed at strategic locations throughout the informal settlement in order to reach as many people as possible.

Household Support (Target: 5000 Vulnerable Households)

Households are heavily dependent on the informal sector for both their incomes and to access basic needs like food, housing, clothes and more. The strict implementation of well intentioned public health guidelines such as the 14-day ban on public transportation and non-food market-trade (both major sources of income for slum residents) pose a devastating threat to these populations, even before they have been exposed to or infected by Covid-19. In light of this, the Uganda SDI Alliance has proposed a support package to assist vulnerable households to access at least 30 days worth of basic needs. This will be made possible through a cash grant of a  minimum of $50 via cash-transfer using mobile money services.


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.

Responding to COVID-19 in a high-density low-income district in Mumbai

A representative from a grassroots federation in Mumbai describes how the community is self-organising for an effective COVID-19 response. This text is drawn from an interview with Selvi Manivanan Devandra conducted by Sharmila Gimonkarpril. Selvi is a community leader with Mahila Milan, a federation of women’s savings groups, active in housing and basic service issues. Indian Oil is the name of their cluster of tenements. Sharmila has been working with Sparc for the past 30 years.

Photo 3 Selvi MM meeting1

My name is Selvi. For four years I have lived in Indian Oil building No. 8/C, room No. 304. Most residents of Indian Oil are people who were displaced by city and state government projects, including many pavement dwellers. Previously, I was staying in slums near Kokari Agar.

I have three children. One daughter is married, and my other two children are college students. My husband works as a security guard. I have been working with Sparc and Mahila Milan (MM) for the last 9 years.

Coordinating and communicating through WhatsApp

With the outbreak of COVID-19, all MM leaders took on responsibility for planning relief work in the area and to coordinate with Shekar from the National Slum Dwellers Federation and local politicians (Aktar Khureshi and Abbu Azmi). Most buildings have an MM leader, and each leader is in touch with a central committee. Previously, we were not involved with the central committee since we didn’t like the way they worked, and we worked to our own guidelines. But now with the challenge of COVID-19, we all agreed to come together and work for the people. We created a communal WhatsApp group, and whatever the committee decides, we come to know about it.

First we set about helping the many people who hang around because they don’t have any work. When the police visit our area, all these people run into the various tenement buildings. We decided to open the building gates at given times i.e. 8.00 to 11.30 in the morning and 6.00 to 8.00 in the evening. Now, with permission to enter buildings at certain times these people avoid running into trouble with police who are monitoring the area.

Photo 1 Tenements at Indian Oil Nagar

Supporting the vulnerable to self-isolate

Next we set about helping families in greatest need. This includes families that have been unable to pay maintenance charges for the last two months or so, those who are handicapped, medically unfit and senior citizens. Also those who share accommodation and have small children, and to such people and families, we give preference. Through the WhatsApp groups, we sent the list of these families to Shekar sir and the local councillor so the families can be registered as needing help. To minimise the chance of virus transmission we asked people, using WhatsApp, to stay in their houses and explained we would bring goods to their doorstep. The building president also takes responsibility for sharing all the information.

Approximately 10,000 families reside in Indian Oil, making up a huge population of around 25,000 people. The councillor provides only 200 packets per day; this is distributed to those families on the list provided by the society leaders. My son has been given an ID card (required to access subsidized food rations) and goes to Shivaji Nagar to get cooked food packets in the afternoon and at night. It is mostly families that live here. Of course, there were many men who used to stay alone here but now they have gone home, back to their families.

Shutting the local market was a priority: people were gathering around the shops or vegetable vendors and so risking the virus spreading. We asked the city government and police department to help us to shift the market to an open space nearby. It would open at specific times and the MM leaders would help check that people are maintaining a safe distance between each other.

A local politician (corporator) arranged for masks and for cooked food to be provided. And for food packets for 300 families including rice, dal (two types), sugar, wheat, oil and bottles of sanitizer. The corporator has also given equipment to sanitize our area, since the city government lacks this.

Photo 2 Tenements at Indian Oil Nagar

Trusted by the inhabitants and the authorities

Previously police would not allow us to leave our houses to check on families or bring food to their doors. We explained that if we didn’t, families wouldn’t get food, and that if we could deliver food to their doorsteps, they wouldn’t need to come out and risk virus infection. The police began to understand that we leaders have an important role. Now we help them maintain the law and deal with crime in the area. They regularly visit our areas which prevents people hanging around.

The MM leaders build lists of how many families are in crisis, what kind of job the head of the family does, and of how many family members. We have been working in this area for 4 or 5 years so are familiar with most of the families in our building and our neighbouring buildings. We open our office at certain times so all leaders can come and submit their lists. Then we sit with Shekar sir and decide how and when we can provide them with food grains.

Shekar sir informs us leaders of the time to come to the office and collect the food. With this crisis, we have started collecting names of those families who don’t have a ration card and those families who have ration card but are not linked  an Aadhaar card [identity card] which means that they are unable to get food grains from the ration shops. The crisis has made us aware which families in our area who don’t have an earning member in their house, and so don’t have easy access to food.

Alert to the dangers of fake news

Many news items are running around on the TV channels, but some news is fake. Some say that by taking certain tablets then we won’t be affected by the virus. My neighbour, who works in the housekeeping department of a hospital bought me some tablets, telling me if I took them, I wouldn’t fall sick. I urged him not to give the tablets to anybody, explaining that they could be dangerous, particularly for people with diabetes, heart problems or asthma etc. I told him no tablet can cure this disease and to take simple precautions: only drink hot water, take a hot water steam every day and gargle twice or thrice with hot water and salt. Wash your hands regularly, don’t touch your face and stay away from others. This is only practical advice, not medication, but it is possible for us to do this at home.

Selvi Manivanan Devandra is a community leader with Mahila Milan, a federation of women’s savings groups active in housing and basic service issues.

With thanks to Slum Dwellers International (SDI) for their support in developing this blog. 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.