Ghana SDI Alliance Community Response to Covid-19


An update from the Ghana SDI Alliance, comprised of Ghana Federation of the Urban Poor (GHAFUP) and People’s Dialogue on Human Settlements – Ghana. 



Following the confirmation of positive Covid-19 cases in Ghana, the Alliance quickened plans to establish the Community-Led Response and Management of the Coronavirus Disease-19 (CLeRMoC-19) response teams in slums, mostly in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana where a high number of positive cases were recorded.

CLeRMoC-19 Mitigation Responses

Picture3The Ghana Alliance’s response to the pandemic was purely community led and involved establishing community coordinating committees, community volunteers, community coordinating centres, pre-triggering meetings with community leaders, municipal and metropolitan health officers, supply of PPEs and community sensitisation activities.

The initiative covered mostly Zongos, inner-cities and slums in the Greater Accra Region, with the aim of creating community level response structures to compliment national level efforts to calm to pandemic.

Supplies such as Veronica buckets, face masks, hand gloves, hand sanitisers, sanitary wipes, hand wash stands and other PPicture12PEs were given out in the communities.  Cooked and non-cooked food were shared on daily basis, especially to persons with disabilities in the communities. Community sensitisation on behaviour change education campaigns were carried out as well to ensure residents become aware of the situation and prepare towards any effect.

Prevention responses 

Picture6The rapid spread of the virus revealed that case management activities were not sufficient to control the disease, and that social mobilisation and community engagement were essential to all aspects of the coronavirus response. Prevention responses in the communities included: proper hand washing with soap under running water, wearing of face mask, avoiding crowded spots, self-quarantine, isolation of infected persons, early reporting of symptoms, and establishing hand washing kits at hotspots in the target communities.

Our prevention responses took cognisance of the high densities of populations in the Zongos, inner-cities and slums, which do not have adequate health or other infrastructures to support community resilience against Covid-19. For example, the settlement of Old Fadama is home to over 120,000 people, Sabon Zongo has over 6,500 residents, Osu Klottey is heavily occupied with over 80,000 people, and Amui Dzor in Ashaiman is equally densely populated settlement.  Though resources were limited, CLeRMoC-19 intervention responses reduced the vulnerability of the target communities to the pandemic by bringing preventive support services closer to the people.

Outcome of Activities Implemented

One most important results of the CLeRMoC-19 are the great engagement of the community in activities resulting in the identification and preparation of measures to decrease risks and protect vulnerable groups, including older people and those with underlying health conditions.

Secondly, CLeRMoC-19 served a critical role in securing the continuity of the supply chain for essential commodities and services in the communities. The intervention advocated and ensured that the fundamental rights of vulnerable groups are safeguarded, that they have access to testing and health-care services, and that they are included in national programmes to receive information and assistance. It further prevented, anticipated and addressed risks of violence, discrimination, marginalisation and xenophobia towards people of concern by enhancing awareness and understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic at community level, ensuring responsibility and management.

Generally, CLeRMoC-19 has demonstrated to be a modality for the communities to take ownership of their safety by creating and sustaining their own response and management strategies against Covid-19.

Results and impact of CLeRMoC-19


  • The initiative established Corona Virus Disease coordinating centres in Zongos, Inner-Cities and Slums (ZINCS) plus monitoring surveillance groups in some markets and support persons with disability (PwDs).
  • CLeRMoC-19 identified and selected responsible persons from within ZINCS as Covid-19 coordinating committees and volunteers to partner with environmental health officers of the assemblies inside their communities.
  • CLeRMoC-19 provided the communities with the means to conduct their own appraisal and analysis, their safety regarding the disease, and the consequences if nothing is done.
  • The community-led initiative instilled a feeling of urgency in engaging in community actions that will prevent the community experiencing infections.
  • To complement national efforts, CLeRMoC-19 supported the National COVID 19 team in the implementation of the identified solutions and actions adopted.
  • CLeRMoC-19 also supported Community Health Nurses and Environmental Health Officers to embark on sustained and intense hygiene promotion campaigns at the community level.
  • CLeRMoC-19 has been the most prominent and popular provider of hand washing materials at community level, creating centres at vantage places using local technology such as tippy taps, veronica buckets etc.
  • Other PPEs provided under the initiative include face masks, hand gloves, sanitary wipes, medical overall and medical goggles for front line workers.
  • Provided education and training on prevention
  • Scaled up using social support system and provision of essentials such as food and water to reach out to the most vulnerable such as Persons with Disability and Kayaye
  • The community-led response team provided onsite education and training on prevention of COVID-19 to residents. But broadly, the intervention sought to achieve the following:
  1. Provide PPEs for community use
  2. Encourage the youth to develop community level hand washing kits
  3. Ensure early community detection of symptoms and seeking early treatment to health services
  4. Ensure social distancing and other protocols are observed in the target communities
  5. Avoiding any body contact and body fluids by community members
  6. Ensure constant hand washing with soap under running water in the target communities
  7. Community compliance to contact tracing and quarantine protocols

Major Highlights

Picture1Community entry and pre-triggering meetings – CLeRMoC-19 initially started with community entry meetings lead by PD in collaboration with the federation in all the target communities. The meetings enabled the communities to mobilise support through public announcements using gong-gong, the religious groups, tribal chiefs, transport associations, food vendors, scrap dealers and facility managers (toilet/bath house).  Six community entry and preparatory meetings – one in each target community were organised.

Partnerships and Collaborations

Picture2The Ghana Alliance collaborated effectively with local and international partners to carry out the activities.  Metropolitan/Municipal Assemblies provided Environmental Health Officers to train community coordinating committees and volunteers to carry out community education. International NGO OXFAM donated PPEs for supply to the communities. Some religious institutions based in South Africa but with branches in Ghana also donated food items and PPEs to our course. Other individuals in their own small ways donated sanitisers to the Alliance for distribution to communities.

The Alliance is currently exploring further partnership with UN Habitat, WIEGO, National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI) and others in the Covid-19 fight. 


In conclusion, the Community-Led Response and Management of Covid-19 ensured that material supplies such as face masks, hand gloves, medical overall, tissues, tip-taps, veronica buckets, soap and hand sanitisers were provided in Zongos, inner-cities, slums, markets and other vulnerable groups as a prevention against the spread of Coronavirus.

Additionally, implementation of community-led campaigns on hygiene promotion, logistical support to environmental health officers, and community collaboration have been successful. The campaign built community knowledge, encouraged involvement, responsibility and a sustainable process on hand washing, use of sanitisers, social distancing and instilled confidence in community members to stand against COVID-19 pandemic.


Mitigating the Impact of Covid-19 on Informal Settlements: An update from the Uganda SDI Alliance


The following is an account from the National Slum Dweller Federation of Uganda (NSDFU) and ACTogether Uganda, with updates on the current work of the Uganda federation and ACTogether.



ACTogether Uganda is an independent Ugandan organisation affiliated to Slum Dwellers International (SDI). Since its establishment in 2006, ACTogether Uganda continues to support the community savings groups that constitute the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda. ACTogether Uganda facilitates processes that develop organisational capacity at the local level and promote pro-poor policy and practice in Uganda’s urban development arena. In partnership with organised urban poor communities, ACTogether Uganda strives to increase access to secure tenure, adequate shelter, basic services, information and many of the other building blocks required for healthy communities.

ACTogether Uganda aspires to create fair and inclusive cities in Uganda and strives to ensure that Ugandan communities of urban poor will unite, be empowered and have the capacity to voice, promote, and effectively negotiate their collective interests and priorities.


The outbreak of COVID-19 has moved governments the world over to implement stringent measures to control its spread. These are a test to the social economic stature of many developing countries, including Uganda.  The scourge of the pandemic has worsened the social-economic and political well-being of society, with urban poor settlements (slums) worst hit. The pandemic has had immediate and long-term effects yet to unravel, as it strains the already ailing health system, weakens established child protection mechanisms, shrinks civic space, undermines education systems and generally derails progress registered towards social-economic empowerment of the urban poor.

This has further strained informal settlement families, especially young mothers and child headed families that may not be able to afford basic needs such as food or access general medical care including sanitation supplies. In addition, the effects of the ban and lock-downs have greatly affected young women who rely on small and medium size businesses for a daily income to support themselves and their families.

To this end, Slum Dwellers International through National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU), ACTogether Uganda and partners Cities and Infrastructure for Growth (CIG) and Cities Alliance for the Kampala Jinja Express Highway- No One Worse Off  project and Plan International Uganda for the Safe and Inclusive Cities project have sought to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on Uganda’s urban poor communities, focusing largely on improving access to sanitation.

NSDFU and AcTogether, with support from its partners, have joined hands with municipal and divisional task forces in Jinja, Wakiso, Mbarara and Kira Municipal council and Nakawa, Makindye, Kawempe, Lubaga and Kampala central Kampala Capital City Authority Division councils to support a number of health facilities during this tragic moment, in the hopes that improved access to clean, hygienic sanitation facilities will avert the spread of the virus in informal settlements. The table below gives a summary of health centres, sanitation units and IEC materials produced.

Category Number
Health Centres 15
Sanitation Units 16
Information, Education and Communication materials 250

Support to health centres and sanitation units;

The support rendered to the Uganda Alliance was geared towards supporting the sanitation units and health centers in Kampala, Lubaga, Kawempe, Makindye, Jinja, Wakiso, Kira, Nakawa, and Mbarara. The support to health centres comprised of N95 respirator face masks, surgical gloves, examination gloves, liquid soap, and Dettol, whilst the support to sanitation units included: Sanitation units liquid soap, bar soap, outdoor hand washing stand, toilet paper, Dettol, and face masks and gloves for the caretakers.









Support to village teams and settlement forum committees

PersonPicture6al Protective Equipment was also given to the Community/ Village Health Teams involved in sensitization and surveillance. This comprised  N95 Respirator Face masks, Examination gloves, Hand Sanitizer (pocket-size), Gum boots, Mega-Phones and Coordination Airtime.

Settlement forum committee members were also provided with airtime for a month to enhance awareness creation in the community.



Awareness creation support

Support for awareness creation was given in the form of information, communication and education (IEC) materials, a van with public address system, community awareness coordination airtime and posters. The posters had locally transmitted pictorial messages customised to the guidelines of the Ministry of Health.

Support to young women and young men

A total number of 30 vulnerable young men and women were supported with money amounting to 100,000shs (+/- USD 25) each to procure food items for their families.











The support offered by the different partners in form of personal protective equipment, information, education and communication posters and support to community teams to create awareness has played a pivotal role in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in the different informal settlements in Uganda.

Special thanks to all the partners that joined hands with the urban poor communities for such a time as this.


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.

Community Based Organisations are Key to Covid-19 Response


In this article, which originally appeared on the Sanitation & Water for All website, one of SDI’s co-founders and former chair of the SDI Board, Sheela Patel, highlights some of the notable responses to the Covid-19 pandemic – and resulting lockdowns – by SDI-affiliated federations of the urban poor.


To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the two major guidelines are practicing social distancing and washing your hands with soap or use sanitizers. This directive could come across as an additional precautionary step in the lives of many. However, for several communities (especially those living in informal settlements) in the developing countries, these directives are challenging to follow.

We spoke to Shamim Banu Salim Sheikh, a member of Mahila Milan (a self-organized, decentralized collective of female) living in Mumbai slum about her community and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, “we try and tell other people that they should keep their hands clean, houses clean, don’t sneeze or cough in public places. But all these things are for rich people and not poor people like us. In this area most of the people have at least 7 to 8 members in their houses, how are you going to tell them they should not sit together or keep distance between each other?” Through a video message, Alice Wanini, a community health volunteer (CHV) in Mukuru Kwa Reuben slum in Nairobi, told SDI how difficult it is to encourage preventative measures such as social distancing and frequent handwashing in overcrowded slums, where 10 sqm shacks house families of ten or more and long lines at handwashing stations leave people frustrated.

This is the reality for almost 1 billion people living in informal settlements –between 30-70% of inhabitants in some cities–pandemics exacerbate the existing vulnerabilities, such as inequalities  in  access  to  water,  sanitation  and  hygiene  services, loss of livelihood for daily-wage earners, precarity of underlying conditions such as respiratory ailments, water-borne diseases, life-style diseases associated with poor nutrition and substance abuse.  As COVID-19 cases spiked around the world, stringent lockdown measures were put in places, thereby making community leaders or community based organizations as the first responders. In Sierra Leone, Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDURP) and their support NGO, the Centre for Dialogue on Human Settlements and Poverty Alleviation (CODOHSAPA) has been involved in the fight against COVID-19 in their localities within Freetown Municipality, which is the epicenter of the pandemic. The prevention and mitigation response undertaken by the FEDURP are as follows:

  • Development of case monitoring app (Freetown Informal Settlement Covid-19 Data – Fiscovidata) and mobilization of community volunteers to focus on the case and incident reporting,
  • Development of sensitization messaging materials such as posters, handbills, and videos: FEDURP consulted various messaging materials developed by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation. The contents of these materials were then customized to reflect the realities of slums and informal settlements. Engagement in community sensitization,  through direct community outreach and using various social media platforms to share videos and radio discussion,
  • Provision of veronica buckets (for hand washing) and face masks,
  • Working closely with settlement-based local chiefs to enforce government regulations and practices,
  • Engagement with state and local authorities to enhance government response to needs of informal settlements: Working with Freetown City Council to support a community kitchen targeting three extremely vulnerable communities targeting people with disabilities, the elderly, orphans, pregnant girls and female- headed households with multiple dependents.

In Malawi, 75% of the urban population live in informal settlements (National Statistical Office, 2018). The Malawi SDI Alliance has made the following progress 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 prioritized 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.
  • The Malawi Alliance worked with the Lilongwe District Health Office to spread Covid-19 awareness messages to 10 informal settlements in Lilongwe City (population roughly 30,000) using a public address system that can effectively reach large numbers of people.
  • 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.
  • Media efforts carried out by Malawi Know Your City TV team to raise awareness with youth, including the production of 6 short videos depicting how COVID-19 has affected the informal trader, the girl child, and other vulnerable groups in informal settlements.

Through this overarching narrative on community action during pandemics, I want to highlight that lockdown means local adaptation–community members and leaders are the first respondents. Yet, their contribution remains invisible and unspoken. These community leaders are most trusted and what they say is taken seriously by the people. Unfortunately, the government do not include their ideas, suggestions or solutions in planning and response. Unless there is a two-way trust between providers and affected communities, and the voices of the most marginalized are not heard, the crucial support and assistance in lockdown will not happen.

I cannot stress enough, when the nation-state puts people in lockdown, there is an urgent need to ensure that they have access to food items and basic care. People are ENTITLED to these basic services, showing “beneficiary” labelled photos of people receiving food is not acceptable. Informal settlements are not receiving the aggressive support that they need, especially, in bringing the livelihoods for informal dwellers and removal of past deficits like poor water and sanitation.

The SWA global partnership has a unique role in this crisis and for creating a post-COVID world, first, by mobilizing its partners, especially governments to take an urgent and much-needed action to provide water and sanitation services in both urban and rural areas. Secondly, using its convening power to strengthen in-country inclusive partnerships to enhance liaison between government and all the relevant key stakeholders, especially the community based organisations (CBOs). Not just during this crisis situation, but also ensuring that the voices of CBOs are also reflected in the advocacy plans of national CSO networks. We all need to keep reminding each other that public health emergencies, such as COVID-19 and gradually building disaster of climate change now demand that we BUILD BACK BETTER.

Zimbabwe Federation Response to Covid-19

Screenshot 2020-06-12 at 14.47.11

On behalf of the the The Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation and Dialogue on Shelter Trust, SDI presents the work to fight COVID-19 in Zimbabwe. The following is an account from the SDI affiliate in Zimbabwe. 


Zimbabwe recored its first Covid 19 case on the 20th of March 2020. On the 23rd of March the nation recorded its first C19 death of a well know public personality. This jolted skeptics to the reality of C19, a few weeks after a Government Minister had dismissed C19 as a disease of the West that does not affect Africans. On the 30th of March the government announced the beginning of the first lockdown phase. The lockdown has been extended into phase 2, which allowed businesses to open. Intercity travel is prohibited. Unfortunately, the relaxation of lockdown rules has resulted in an increase in confirmed cases. As at May 31st 2020, Zimbabwe had 178 confirmed cases, 29 recoveries and 4 deaths out of a total of 45,395 people tested. The confirmed cases are mainly returnees in Government Quarantine centres. These centres have become a hotspot of COVID-19 infections. This has led to the stigmatization of returnees. Most agencies have been urging government to accelerate its testing.

Impact of COVID-19 in Zimbabwe slums

The Covid19 pandemic has presented complex health and humanitarian crises to the Zimbabwean society which was already burdened with a crippled health service, economic and financial crisis as well as unemployment and food shortages. Other governments responded to the pandemic with lockdowns in the interest of flattening the curve. While these measures are commendable, they have been viewed with much skepticism in terms of how they have been roundly applied to contexts in the Global South without regard to the different realities such as widespread poverty and inequalities. Conditions of urban informality rife in the Zimbabwe, for instance, beg for customised and measured responses. Social distancing, in particular, may not neatly work with overcrowding in slums. Informal business closures also suffocate the very lifeline for most slum/urban dwellers who sustain livelihoods on daily incomes. The high incidence of informality in the Global South also means that there is potentially high risk of  exclusion of slums and informal businesses in both public and private sector-driven responses to the Covid-19 crisis.

The Zimbabwean government has responded to the C19 reality by demolishing all informal trading spaces in all areas of the city including residential areas. The C19 is being used as an excuse of demolishing informal markets and homes under the disguise of sanitising and decongesting the city. Unfortunately, this has increased the number of homeless people and overcrowding as families take in evictees. In addition, the markets for basics such as fruit and vegetables are now centralised. The markets now open for a short time forcing people to converge and crowd the market for the short hours they are open. The markets are a potential hotspot for C19.

On top of this, the loss of employment due to C19 has resulted in families loosing income and failing to pay rent. Evictions of non-paying lodgers are imminent..

Crowded and poorer settlements, where it is difficult for people to safeguard themselves against getting infected, are likely to see worse outcomes. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a disruptive new normal for everyone through its social distancing guidelines. But for the urban poor households, these guidelines aren’t just burdensome but they are essentially impossible. Social distancing is a critically important response to the pandemic, but it also assumes that people have adequate space, services and social safety nets to survive such an order. This is simply not the reality across slum settlements in urban areas.

Against this background, the Zimbabwean SDI Alliance received resources towards the following Covid related strategic priorities and activities:

1.  Contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and decrease morbidity and mortality.

Knowledge is power. The Alliance came up with awareness packs that they circulated through social media. Hardcopy fliers are discouraged and social media is the communication of choice available to people in informal settlements.  Support was given for communication and leaders are reaching savers through social media

Over the years the Alliance has invested in settlement profiles, enumerations as well as spatial maps of slum settlements. These were used to assess the degree of deprivations in the informal settlements. Information was shared through the government-chaired Emergency Strategic Group that the Alliance is part of. Informal and slum communities such as Mucheke in Masvingo and Tafara in Harare are benefiting from increased water supply through rehabilitation of a borehole funded by SDl and in Masvingo projects funded by the Bilbao.

2.  Decrease the deterioration of human assets and rights, social cohesion and livelihoods

When the first case of Covid was confirmed The Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation stopped all federation meetings, even before the government announced a lockdown. However, the Alliance became concerned that the social cohesion of groups would be compromised by not meeting. To continue communication with groups, leaders set up social media platforms. The platforms are being used to communicate with savers. Some groups have now started saving. Some are saving using mobile money, others are meeting in small groups to save, respecting self-distancing as required by our lockdown rules. Some groups are splitting up so that they have smaller groups as well as meeting for not more than an hour. Some groups have revived community gardens to augment food sources. The next steps are to continue to check the status of all savings groups as well as to develop guidelines for saving and maintaining group cohesion when living and working with Covid. With the funding from SDI, the Management Committee allocated resources to all the 12 federation regions. Allocation was on the basis of the number of active savers in the region. The regions were divided into 3 categories from the biggest region to the smallest in terms of membership. Each region decided on its priorities. The funds were used to support the following activities:

  • Purchasing of non-food items such as soap, sanitiesrs and masks. It is mandatory to wear masks in Zimbabwe. Reports of families sharing masks were common
  • Purchase of food items, especially grains. Mealie meal is a staple in Zimbabwe and unfortunately is scarce at the moment. In addition, some groups bought matches and cooking oil for their families.
  • Rehabilitation of a borehole in Tafara settlement in Harare.

A total of 3702 households were direct beneficiaries of the funding.

3.  Protect, assist and advocate for communities particularly vulnerable to the pandemic.

The government embarked on a program to demolish informal markets as well as some settlements when they announced the lockdown. The demolitions are being regarded as preparedness plans to sanitize informal settlements to minimize the spread of C19 in informal settlements. Authorities in the past had failed to demolish these markets and settlements because of legal challenges to the evictions as well as political resistance. However, C19 has given authorities an excuse to undertake unchallenged evictions. The Alliance has engaged Legal Resources Foundation to assist in preparing a class action to fight the evictions. To this end, the Alliance has prepared a Standard Operating Procedures to guide the Dialogue on Shelter Trust staff how to support Federation activities during C19. In addition, the Alliance prepared a policy brief to be used with government and other stakeholders in planning and implementing interventions and advocacy activities related to C19 in informal settlements.


Groups have closed bank accounts because of expensive bank charges. It took long to send money safely through Mukuru to different regions.  The tariffs of 7% of transaction value was also expensive.

Some groups failed to purchase their priority items due to scarcity.

Some groups failed to produce their own loans due to lack of transport to cities where the ingredients are sourced.

Only a quarter of the membership directly benefitted from the funding and small portions.

Way forward

Initially the alliance was waiting to resume activities after Covid. What is apparent now is that the Alliance has to devise ways of working and living with Covid and are therefore planning to:

  • Carry out a national survey of all groups to find out how groups can adapt and resume all their activities with necessary modifications
  • Support all groups to save
  • Explore rebuilding of livelihood activities under Covid
  • Scale up the production of soaps and masks
  • Continue to link savers and communities to national C19 programmes


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.



Community-led COVID-19 Response: Philippine’s Homeless People’s Federation

Screenshot 2020-06-09 at 11.07.20

By Rolando A. Tuazon and Theresa Carampatana

Originally featured on the IIED blog:

Based on member interviews and accounts, the Philippines Homeless People’s Federation describes how community organizations have rallied to support vulnerable groups, hit hardest by the pandemic.

This blog describes how the Philippines Homeless People’s Federation (HPFPI) has responded to the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. The Federation has over 9,000 members in 106 communities in 14 cities and towns throughout the Philippines. It brings together low-income community organizations to find solutions to problems relating to land, housing, income, infrastructure, health and welfare. Its work is supported by The Philippine Action for Community-led Shelter Initiatives, Inc (PACSII).

The blog draws on responses to a questionnaire conducted by federation community leaders, and a teleconference where experiences from the ground — Batasan, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Muntinlupa, NCR,  Rodriguez-Rizal and Valenzuela — were shared.

Planning the response

[caption id="attachment_13143" align="alignleft" width="225"]Surveying needs in Manila. Surveying needs in Manila.[/caption]

Initial plans from HPFPI leaders (local, regional and national) included:

  • Identifying the communities’ most vulnerable people and updating community databases with member information. With this data, leaders could prioritize getting help for the homeless and others in greatest need including the elderly, children and people with disabilities
  • Deploying immediate interventions to help prevent the spread of the virus and minimize impacts of the lockdown
  • Coordinating and partnering with government and non-government institutions
  • Setting up a communications network to support member coordination across regions and cities
  • Since many banks were closed, supporting the transfer of funds to regions. At the start of the lockdown, each region used their savings to finance their community operations but these soon ran low.

Preventing the virus spread

[caption id="attachment_13137" align="alignleft" width="300"]Community quarantine in Mindanao. Community quarantine in Mindanao.[/caption]

Information on TV and radio made people aware of how to contain the virus. Federation leaders worked to get this information out to everyone, while also trying to prevent ‘fake news’ circulating. Information sharing must observe social distancing rules; meetings are not allowed.


People complied with the information as follows:

  • Blocking off whole areas to prevent movement
  • Applying social distancing and wearing face masks
  • Observing national curfew (8pm – 5 am)
  • Using quarantine passes to buy food – one per family member and for those working on the frontline
  • All observing home-stay, senior citizens most strictly
  • Promoting good hygiene such as hand washing
  • Medical check-ups when virus symptoms develop
[caption id="attachment_13140" align="alignnone" width="750"]Handwashing station in Iloilo. Handwashing station in Iloilo.[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_13142" align="alignleft" width="300"]Making masks and food packs in Mindanao. Making masks and food packs in Mindanao.[/caption]

Community leaders have helped keep community members disinfected, distributing soap and alcohol cleanser. Some have built communal washing facilities or purchased thermal scanners that can detect the virus. Some are making washable masks because it is now more difficult to get these from the stores.


Local government has also been disinfecting public markets and other commonly used areas.

Practical help

[caption id="attachment_13141" align="alignleft" width="300"]Making food packs in Manila. Making food packs in Manila.[/caption]

External aid agencies were slow to respond and initially, funding to support the homeless came mainly from community savings and the HPFPI’s disaster fund.

Federation leaders bought food in bulk and packaged it up for distribution to each family.

The packs include 3-5 kg of rice, canned sardines, instant noodles, biscuits and coffee. In some cases, packages included baby milk, medicines and vitamins. 

Families often share their food with neighbours, especially those in greater need. Some have set up community kitchens and communal gardens with backyard and vertical gardening.

Community leaders have been coordinating with local government to get those infected to hospital or community health centres. Preventive measures implemented in the communities have paid off: there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in most areas with community associations.

Working with government

The government’s strict quarantine policy makes it hard for HPFPI to mobilise the community response. So, the federation has been working with government agencies to identify the most vulnerable members, distribute relief goods and cash, repackage goods for the poorest, and carry out health monitoring. Local government units often find it easier to implement their programs when working with organizations such as HPFPI.

Mobilising funds and resources

As the lockdown was enforced, people lost their income almost overnight. They needed money to buy food but the government response was slow and when help did arrive, provisions were inadequate. 1kg of rice, 1 can of sardines and 1 pack of instant noodles was meant to provide for a family for a week. Some families would receive a second package, often with more items.

National government announced payments of 5,000 – 8,000 pesos for each family, but more than half did not receive it.

Funding from Slum Dwellers International (SDI) and the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR) has been supporting HPFPI’s work in each region but it has proved difficult to get the bank to actually transfer the funds. Some members benefitted from support from development organisation Caritas.

Because of the enormity of the needs of our sizeable membership, PACSII is seeking funds from local sources. 1.5 million pesos (30,000 USD) have been donated by individuals and local companies.

Challenges brought by COVID-19…

The lockdown prevents people moving, working, planning, organizing and travelling to access resources. But community leaders found ways round this and managed to coordinate with government, often through the internet and digital meetings.

The government’s home-stay policy is particularly challenging with the harsh living conditions many face. Young people find the confinement tough, and some have violated quarantine rules.

Overall, the government was ill-prepared: resources and the mechanisms to distribute them were insufficient. In adequate health systems has led to a health crisis that will, almost certainly, give way to an economic crisis.

…but some good things too

The massive drop in transport emissions has reduced air pollution significantly. The lockdown has offered more opportunities for family bonding, community solidarity and nurtured a general feeling of unity. People have also found their faith is stronger, with a deeper appreciation of God and His providence. Some communities have organized common time for prayers.


An effective crisis response draws on the efforts of many. The government quickly found it could not prevent the spread of the virus, or adequately address its impacts, without cooperation from everyone.

Similarly, community organizations found they could work at scale and with greater impact when their work was supported by government. Updated baseline community data for community mapping was fundamental for getting help to the most vulnerable areas.

Finally, the challenge of accessing funds, particularly in the early stages of lockdown, made clear the need for an emergency fast-response fund to help manage future disasters and crises.

Theresa Carampatana is president of the Homeless People’s Federation of the Philippines; Rolando A. Tuazon is Executive Director of PACSII 

[caption id="attachment_13144" align="alignleft" width="212"]Theresa Carmpatana, HPFPI Theresa Carmpatana, HPFPI[/caption] [caption id="attachment_13139" align="alignleft" width="275"]Fr. Rolando A. Tuazon, PACSII Fr. Rolando A. Tuazon, PACSII[/caption]

Sierra Leone SDI Alliance Response to Covid-19


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Nearly three months since the first case of Covid-19 was reported in Sierra Leone, the Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDURP) and their support NGO the Centre for Dialogue on Human Settlements and Poverty Alleviation (CODOHSAPA) reflect on actions taken to date and the challenges that still lie ahead in taking action against this pandemic.


This report provides narrative on how FEDURP has been involved in the fight against COVID-19 in their localities within Freetown Municipality, which is the epicentre of the pandemic. Their involvement has been driven by the institutional response strategy developed in collaboration with Freetown City Council (FCC). This strategy was generated using feedback and experiences of FEDURP and community volunteers actively involved in various activities to help prevent and mitigate the spread of the virus in their respective localities.


In early April 2020, FEDURP and CODOHSAPA consulted and put together a COVID-19 response plan as the pandemic was close to getting its way into Sierra Leone from the two neighboring countries of Liberia and Guinea. This plan constituted the following thematic pillars:

  • Leverage existing partnerships with local authorities, such as Freetown City Council, to establish clear roles and responsibilities and clear lines of communication between government and communities;
  • Adapt and deliver initiatives formulated within the national policy framework;
  • Monitoring of community dynamics, including livelihood activities and movement of people in and out of their settlements; and,
  • Enhancing contact tracing of suspected or positive cases within their communities.

To ensure that our strategy was better informed and relevant, it also capitalised on FCC’s COVID-19 response framework with three strategic pillars, namely;

  • Behavior change messaging,
  • Behavior change support, and,
  • Isolation and containment support.

These two foregoing strategic pillars incidentally aligned with the strategic objectives of the SDI network with respect to Covid-19, namely;

  • To provide community owned and validated settlement profile and mapping data to inform co-developed preparedness and response plans including logistics;
  • Settlement level enablement of co-owned humanitarian assistance responses by means of leveraging existing social and political capital as a way to build two-way trust between providers and affected populations; and,
  • To engage in monitoring and advocacy activities at settlement and city level in order to minimize threats of evictions and counterproductive closures of essential informal services during periods of lockdown or protracted national emergency.

Hence, the actions of FEDURP included; i) mobilization of community volunteers to focus on case and incident reporting; ii) development of sensitization messaging materials such as posters, handbills, and videos; iii) engagement in community sensitisation through direct community outreach and using various social media platforms to share videos and radio discussion; iv) provision of veronica buckets (for hand washing) and face masks; v) work with settlement-based local chiefs to enforce government regulations and practices; and, vi) engagement with state and local authorities to enhance government response to needs of informal settlements.

Prevention Response

  • Development of behaviour change messaging and information, education and communication (IEC) materials:

FEDURP and CODOHSAPA consulted various messaging materials developed by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS). The contents of these materials were customised to reflect the realities of slums and informal settlements. The messaging materials developed included visuals (posters and handbills) and audio-visuals (videos). This was done in collaboration with FCC and community health workers working in community health centres located in the informal settlements.  The videos were done by the KYC TV team. One of the videos was done with the mayor in one of the slums (Susan’s Bay) emphasing the importance of handwashing and social distancing.

  • Provision of handwashing facilities:

Five communities were supported with veronica buckets and soap which were located at strategic locations within communities. These provided facilities for handwashing, which helps to stimulate and enhance behaviour change in communities. Given that hand washing is the most basic practice to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the provision of these items has increased people’s awareness about handwashing practices as an important element to preventing the spread of the virus. These stations are monitored by young community volunteers to enforce the practice for passers-by and to replenish the water and soap.

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  • Production and provision of face masks:

1,250 face masks were produced by tailors who are members of FEDURP. 250 were directly distributed to community volunteers and 1,000 contributed to the 60,000 mask target set by the FCC to support vulnerable population in slum and informal settlements. 

  • Community sensitization and propagation of messaging:

Community volunteers drawn from the community-based disaster management committees (CDMCs) and FEDURP key participants engaged in community outreach activities, organising community and one-on-one sensitisation drives and distributing the posters and handbills containing customised messages that respond to the realities of slums and informal settlements.

Mitigation Response

  • Working with FCC to reach out vulnerable population with food items during lockdown:

The federation worked with FCC to support a community kitchen targeting three extremely vulnerable communities namely, Cockle Bay (in the west end of Freetown), CKG (central), and Old Wharf (east end) targeting people with disabilities, the elderly, orphans, pregnant girls and female headed households with multiple dependents. This is to mitigate hunger for these categories of people who are limited to sourcing livelihood opportunities. Without such support, they are exposed to reinforced marginalisation and increase their exposure to contracting the virus and/or decreasing the chances of survival if they get exposed to the virus.

  • Engagement with authorities to enhance support to informal settlements:

The situation of slums and informal settlements remains largely ignored by state institutions in responding to COVID-19. FEDURP volunteers have been engaging particularly with the Disaster Management Department of the Office of National Security (ONS) in which they responded by providing materials to these localities. Nevertheless, FCC has been quite responsive to the needs of slums and informal settlements. With focus on COVID-19, the engagement has also brought into view environmental disasters as the rains that are about to start, which often leads to massive seasonal and tidal flooding, rock or mud falls, landslides and more. There are speculations that if preparedness actions are not taken now before the rains set in it may beset the preventive measures and escalate the spread of the virus. Hence, the federation is pushing for environmental disaster preparedness. Another issue of concern is the militaristic approach to effecting quarantine actions in slums and informal settlements compared to formal or built up neighbourhoods. This has resulted in resistance and mistrust between communities and law enforcement. FEDURP therefore found it critical to encourage the relevant authorities to adopt more humane and civil methods.

  •  Development of case monitoring app (Freetown Informal Settlement Covid-19 Data – Fiscovidata)

This app has been initiated to ensure that incidents and issues emerging in slums and informal settlements are captured and reported so that their situation are not sidelined and to serve as the basis to inform key stakeholders about the realities of these localities. This was done in consultation with FCC capturing the perspectives of all parties. It also provides opportunities for the participants to improve data collection skills and sensitivity to the needs and realities of their settlements. (See the link:

  • Case and incident reporting:

This initiative constituted 126 data collectors spread across the 68 slums and informal settlements in which 48 are attached to the FCC ward-level community engagement structure using the aforementioned app, Fiscovidata, to collect and report cases and other incidents. Two levels of data analysis are done, i) community level data analysis that reflects the 68 settlements; and, ii) ward level in which incidents from these communities and other neighbourhoods within a ward are compiled to reflect the ward for sole purpose of FCC. Collecting and reporting on the cases and related incidents is important to mitigate the effects of COVID-19, as it helps to inform stakeholders of necessary actions that may address the needs of slum dwellers and informal settlers.

  • Networking with State and Non-State Agencies

The fight against COVID-19 requires collaborative actions to build synergies and maximize the use of limited resources in the face of this global pandemic. The Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) has been responsible for designing appropriate IEC materials as well coordinating the provision of health services nationwide, including COVID-related mitigation and curatives. As such, messages we customized were derived from the approved MoHS resource base. At the same time, development and enforcement of protocols, procedures, and practices are undertaken by the Emergency Operational Centre (EOC). This has remained quite centralized, even though attempts are being made to decentralize its operations, making it difficult for CSOs to efficiently interact with the centre.

Collaboration with FCC has continued in order to maximize the provision of services and support. FEDURP/CODOHSAPA undertakes community mobilization and organisation as well as providing necessary data to inform FCC’s actions and service provision. This synergy tends to reinforce the recognition of slum and informal settlements as part of the municipal constituents, which by all indication precludes any foreseeable forced eviction in the course of the current situation.

FEDURP’s engagement with ONS saw additional provision of hand washing facilities in a few settlements and involved discussions on how both partners can begin to work on the actions to mitigate environmental disaster as rainy season is just setting in now.

A consortium including CRS, FCC, FEDURP/CODOHSAPA, CARITAS Freetown and Sierra Leone Red Cross has been constituted to seek funding from EU. By all indications, there is the possibility to win this grant which will target the slum dwellers and informal settlers, and special trade and socio-economic groups such as Traders and Market Women Council, Bike Riders Association, Tricycle (Kekeh) Drivers Union and Motor Drivers Union.

We are also working with ARISE partners to finalise and roll out the concept on our collaboration on the fight against COVID-19. This will focus on the following objectives:

  • Improved community capacity to respond and mitigate the spread and contagion of COVID-19 in slums and informal settlements in Freetown;
  • Enhance government’s COVID-19 response and mitigation priorities to reflect the needs of slums and informal settlements; and,
  • Improve structures and practices for the collection and documentation of experiences and learning of COVID-19 response and mitigation interventions in slums and informal settlements


Some of the challenges we have faced include the following:

  • The centralized approach poses the challenge of efficiently engaging with Emergency Operational Centre (EOC);
  • There are huge needs, particularly in slums and informal settlements, but limited funding to respond adequately;
  • Mixed messages has resulted in the emergence of myths and misconceptions in communities and the society generally about the Covid-19 virus;
  • Periodic full and partial lockdowns seriously affect the livelihoods of slum dwellers and urban poor communities, as most are daily wage earners living on a hand-to-mouth basis. This is reinforced by the increase in the cost of food stuff caused by the ban on inter-district vehicular movement, which in turn affects movement of local food stuff from the rural areas where local food stuff are grown and at same time affect the marketing stock of the market women sellers.

Lessons Learned

Some of the lessons learned include:

  • Our experiences from the Ebola outbreak was a capital for the government and local actors to draw from to design and plan for the fight against COVID-19.
  • Ebola attracted a lot of funding from international partners, but the emergency of COVID-19 as a global pandemic attracted less support globally, which is an indication that nations across the globe were busy fighting their own scourge.
  • The need for community participation has become even more important, as restriction on movement and enforcement of social distancing precludes others from directly supporting local actions.
  • COVID-19 has stimulated ingenuity and creativity, such as the local fabrication of hand washing stations and face mask.
  • COVID-19 has registered the urgent need for our government to invest in our health and other essential infrastructures as the ban on international flights has limited all of us (rich and poor, governors and the governed) to use our local health facilities as they have no second option of traveling abroad.

Next Steps 

As the Sierra Leone SDI Alliance, we have identified the following as critical next steps:

  • Focus sensitisation on myths and misconceptions.
  • Data collection and incident reporting continues.
  • Continue engagement with partners to seek other funding opportunities.
  • FEDURP and volunteers to strengthen community monitoring efforts in collaboration with respective resident local chiefs.
  • Continue engagement with state and non-state actors to strengthen synergies and enhance support to slums and informal settlements


Covid-19 in a Mumbai Slum: An interview with Shamim Banu of Rafik nagar


Last week, SPARC India spoke to Shamim Banu Salim Sheikh (age 55), a member of Mahila Milan living in Mumbai’s Rafik nagar slum in Govandi about conditions in her community. The below are her reflections on her community and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

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“My name is Shamimbanu. I am the taluka vice president of Samajwadi party. I reside in Rafik nagar – Govandi, Shivaji nagar near Bismillah Masjid dumping ground.  My family consists of my husband, two sons and two daughters. One daughter is married. My husband and my sons are working in the fishing transport line. We have one business only.

Life in Rafik Nagar

Rafik nagar is a huge slum with around 40,000 houses. Most of the houses are kuccha (informal), at least 30 to 35% houses are kuccha since they are near the dumping ground. Securities from this area don’t allow these people to build pucca (permanent) houses. But if we go little away from the dumping ground then we see little pucca houses and more deeper in the area, you have ground plus one houses, i.e ground floor is pucca and upstairs they have patra (tin) roof or patra side walls. Most of the people’s occupation here is wastes pickers, fish sellers, vegetable sellers, kadiyas (masons), construction workers and mystry (carpenters).

All kinds of people stay here. Most of the people are Muslims from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar states. Migrant workers in this area were more, now most of them have left their houses and went back to their native lands. The houses are small and 8 to 10 men would stay in one house. The reason they left from here is not food but all their work is stopped [because of the coronavirus lockdown], and they were scared that whatever savings they had would finish staying here without work.

We have a  team of ladies who come together and prepare community food daily, all the expenses are done by the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly (MLA) and five other councillors and supply food to different areas such as Guatam nagar, Shivaji nagar, Sathe nagar and Indian oil and also Rafik nagar. Whoever wants food comes here and takes the packet. Many people don’t have a gas cylinder in their house. If we take a cylinder it costs 1000/-. Most of them use chullas (hearth / stove) for cooking food and some get kerosene at 80/- per litre.

We have 24 hours electricity – only people near the dumping ground don’t have individual meters otherwise all the houses have individual meters. Water is also not a problem: we get ample water from last 3 years as our MLA has given us water connection to every house. He has spent crores of rupees to give us this connection. Some lanes have proper drainage lines, but the new houses don’t have drains. Even in rainy season, we don’t have much problem here. The area doesn’t get choked up any time. He has constructed a small kabrastan (cemetery) in our area, otherwise we had to go far away to cremate the body. Only problem we have here is that, because the garbage comes here there is very dirty smell in the area when they burn it. It’s not only garbage that gets burnt but there is a company nearby which throws post-mortem and other stuffs in this dumping ground . Many people have various kinds of lung diseases here. We all use common toilets. The toilets are not sufficient for everybody, some go near the dumping ground before the security comes to take charge.

Covid-19 in Our Community

Corona illness is a surprise to us, but as I said we are living here for years with  all kinds of dangerous diseases, this is one kind of disease in our list. If you ever come here and see you will find people going around everywhere without any fear. Nobody from outside such as police, doctors or Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officers dares to come inside the area. Because they themselves are scared that they will get new diseases if they enter this slum. So most of the time police stays outside near the road side and don’t allow people to go anywhere.

We try and tell other people that they should keep their hands clean, houses clean, don’t sneeze or cough in public places. But all these things are for rich people and not poor people like us. In this area most of the people have at least 7 to 8 members in their houses, how are you going to tell them they should not sit together or keep distance between each other? They will laugh at  you and show you their houses first to see how big is their house. It’s two and half months now, nobody from the government side or BMC has come to sanitize our area  or give us any information about this disease. We hear the message when we have to call somebody from the phone. They have a tape that tells you what we have to do to stay away from this diseases and sometimes from the TV. But people here are least bothered about all these things. They are waiting, when this lockdown will be over and they will go out for their jobs.

We must be having many positive cases in our area, but nobody has come to check any family. Once our MLA had arranged a camp and sent some doctors to check here by bringing some small machine to see if people have fever, but they said there are no positive cases at least nearby my area. We are not sure how true is that. Because if people don’t listen to what government is saying than how could you test just few people and say that there are no positive cases in this slum. Many migrant workers who were living here have left from here, our MLA arranged buses and train tickets for many people, now almost 30 to 35% of migrant workers have gone.

Many people have lost their jobs. They are not sure whether they will get the same job again, but the fish and vegetable sellers will continue with their jobs. The rest will have to find another job. We are all waiting for the buses and trains to start so that we can go out and start earning. Government didn’t think about people who are on daily wages. It’s good that our MLA gives us all the grains to cook food in our area so at least poor people take meals twice from here.

We had got a contract of preparing some 10,000 to 12,000 masks. We use to get 2 rupees per mask. Many people were doing this work but that is also stopped. In Ramadan month most of them had started vegetable and fruits businesses. Some were selling toys and other stuff so that they were able to earn some money out of it. But now everything is stopped. The waste pickers try and go to pick up waste but the watchman asks them to pay 50 rupees to go out from the area, and since all the shops are closed who will buy their stuff.

People do have ration cards but not all. We get only rice and wheat in the ration shop and nothing else. What are we going to doing with all the rice if there is no daal or masala or oil? How are we going to cook the food? No systems are in place; government does their own manmani (will), whenever they want they do lockdown but we are the sufferers. It seems everything has come to an stand still. “Zindagi mano thumsi gayi hai.” (“Seems like life has paused.”)

Nothing is good about what is happening, we are thanks to Allah (God) that we have a good MLA who is taking care of people in whole of Shivaji nagar. We prepare 4,000 kg of rice daily, dal, chole bjature (chickpea curry with fried bread), once a week chicken biryani and once a week mutton pilaf and feed as many people we can. Our team of ladies come together and pack the food and send it by tempo (small cargo truck) to different areas. This is only good thing.

There is a small general hospital built by MLA which takes care of small cases. They charge 10 rupees if medicine is available then they give us free medicines also. We have been given contact numbers for ambulance so that in emergency we can contact them.”