KYC.TV Online Training: Lessons Taught and Lessons Learnt

Towards a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for and by youth in slums

credit Nigerian Slum Informal Settlement Federation nose mask


Photo credit: Nigeria Media Team

With in person learning exchanges put on hold due to Covid-19 lockdowns, and in response to a demand from participants for training on social impact media, filmmaking and storytelling for change, KYC.TV hosted a number of well attended online learning exchanges between March and September 2020. Each training was hosted on Zoom and simultaneously livestreamed on Facebook to increase accessibility and reach. 

The first session, held in April, was a stock taking exercise to get participant input and better understand what the needs and demands for training were. As the coronavirus pandemic spread to more SDI affiliated countries, federations were confronted with fake news about various aspects of the pandemic. Before long, it became clear how dangerous and destructive these fake news reports were – misrepresenting the disease and increasing the risk of infection. In response, KYC.TV hosted its second online training session to help  participants identify and analyse suspected fake news posts.

As the borders closed and hard lockdowns were enforced in one country after another, participants began requesting updates from their peers in order to better understand their own situation and get a sense of what their futures could look like. This third KYC.TV session was very insightful and helped build pan-African solidarity amongst the youth participants. 



As the youth began to adjust to the “new normal” of living in various stages of lockdown, we attempted to bring “regular programming” back to the online training curriculum – turning our focus to storytelling methodologies that would continue to build the participants’ creative capacities. In response to a call for more formal training on documentary storytelling, KYC.TV’s fourth online training session was the first in a series of short courses in small and larger groups focused on new and innovative approaches to this accessible and impactful style. The second session in the documentary masterclass series focussed on story structure and how to move events forward in a film in a coherent and structured way that tells a story, has an emotional impact, and serves as a catalyst for change. 

Considering creative and resilient response to the economic impacts of lockdown became critical over this time. In the next session, KYC.TV provided a platform for young entrepreneurs from Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Nigeria and other countries across Africa to talk shop and encourage their peers to start their own businesses or professionalise their service offering.

As the programme picked up momentum and new participants joined, we felt it important to provide a special session for everyone to re-introduce themselves, building unity and relationships amongst the participants. Simultaneous translation of English to French in each session also attempted to bridge any barriers between participants. In an effort to alleviate the burden of translation, the team decided to offer some sessions in French. But one of the lessons emerging from this first phase of online trainings is that effective simultaneous translation is key. Going forward, there are plans to ensure that this is done in a more formal, professionalised way – ensuring that all participants are able to contribute and participate equally. 

Our next session took place in the wake of the upheaval and indignation that swept across the world following George Floyd’s murder by US police. We took this opportunity to explore themes of morality, ethics and reporting, and discussed the influence and impact of citizen journalism on society at large and challenged the participants to consider how they can use their own storytelling to catalyse change. 



In our last four sessions, we brought in special guests to present on a variety of storytelling tools and skills relevant to the participating youth. Special guests ranged from fellow federation youth to professionals from the film/media industry. Sessions seemed to really come alive with a co-presenter that was from the federation, while special guests from the industry drew an audience and helped inspire the participants to professionalize themselves. First, we spoke to Richard Bockarie from Sierra Leone, who described how they designed a mobile app for data collection and offered tips to participants about how to make their own mobile apps. In the Shooting for the Edit masterclass, we built on the previous masterclass training, exploring the different types of shots that should be captured on a shoot and how to use these in the final edit. Our next masterclass focused on cinematography, featuring special guest Leo Purman, a young cinematographer making waves in Los Angeles and New York. He offered practical tips and tricks for developing skills as a cinematographer and how to approach production to get the best results. The last masterclass, “Getting to Grips with Lightroom,” was co-hosted by KYCTV participant Sam Okechukwu from Nigeria, a rising star in the Lagos photography scene who excels at mobile phone photography and Lightroom manipulation. 

credit Know Your City TV Zambia Zambia Awareness


 Photo credit: Zambia KYC TV team

Major takeaways from this first phase of online training include the insights into how effectively peer peer training is, and the impact of featuring special guests from the industry. Going forward we will identify different tutors from federation media teams to prepare and co-present the content and continue to invite special guests. However, special guests need to answer specific questions from the participants and the participants themselves should have some say in who is invited to the MOOC.

A number of participants requested certifications. While this is an important psychological reward, on investigation we found potential employers or investors are actually less impressed with a certificate of participation than with a well worded and insightful letter of recommendation. Certificates simply state that the participant was on a course, while a letter of recommendation is far more personal, providing insight into the character and capability of the participants. As reward and motivation, we will issue letters of recommendation to participants who show work with distinction.

Credit Mukuru Youth Initiatives stay fresh maxresdefault


Photo credit: Mukuru Youth Initiative

We all also realised that it is important to adhere to the principle of learning by doing as outlined in the SDI theory of change. Retention of knowledge is very low if it is not linked to action. The MOOC will be designed as a program of action and deliverables from each student will link directly back to their individual learning goal that impacts on their own built environment. The thrust of the MOOC will be co-creation, and this learning cannot be theory based: we are looking to learn as much from participants as we are to teach them.

It is encouraging to see how eager participants are to learn, and how easily they were able to pick up the skills taught and use them to create relevant media. In the next phase of our online training curriculum we are hoping to scale up and diversify the training. There is huge demand for practical, task orientated knowledge production around creating social impact on ground in informal settlements. As the pressures of climate emergency and increasing inequality bite these skills will be hard tested. Time is of the essence, we need to prepare and face resilience. 


News Release: Cities Alliance supports SDI affiliates to address Covid-19 crisis



SDI is excited to announce the below partnership with Cities Alliance, supporting  SDI-affiliated federations in their work to fight COVID-19. This programme gives SDI, a long-standing member of The Cities Alliance, the opportunity to work closely with CA on this critical project, aligning the missions of our two organisations to respond to this important and unprecedented cause.

The Cities Alliance programme builds on the ongoing work of SDI-affiliated federations who, through a Rapid Needs Assessment (RNA), received emergency funding from SDI. This funding has supported affiliates to respond quickly to the effects of the COVID-19 in their communities, closing gaps not adequately addressed by government responses.

Over the course of our many years as members of The Cities Alliance we have endeavoured to ensure that SDI’s contribution seeks always to bring the voices and agency of slum dwellers to the centre stage. We are confident that this partnership will continue this effort and will ensure that the dynamism and innovative spirit inherent in SDI’s federations creates meaningful, lasting, and widespread impact in the cities where we work and in the global urban development agenda.

UPDATE: Cities Alliance published this update to the below press release on 30 July 2020. 


Cape Town, Brussels, 27 July 2020 – Cities Alliance is launching a new programme to support the global efforts in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Sida, the purpose of the project is twofold: strengthen the resilience of communities in informal settlements and support the sustainability of civil society organizations, in cooperation with Slum Dwellers International – SDI; and reinforce the capacities of informal communities to respond to the current outbreak and better prepare for future crises.

The pandemic is having disastrous effects on families in informal settlements that are home to nearly a billion people. These communities have to contend with insecure property rights, low-quality housing, poor sanitation, and limited access to basic services, including health care. Common responses and general health regulations intended to limit the spread of COVID-related infections are a challenge for many slum dwellers. Humanitarian responses do not always reach them. Lockdowns and containment measures cause tremendous losses to livelihoods for families that already have limited or no access to social safety nets.

The new initiative is intended to support the needs of informal communities in 21 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Activities will be implemented primarily through existing community-based systems and networks.

“The current crisis has shown the vital need to scale up efforts of organised community networks to effectively tackle the pandemic, implement meaningful recovery plans and provide solutions in the long-run,” – William Cobbett, Director of Cities Alliance.

Against this background, and in line with its global partnership identity, Cities Alliance will award direct grants to local NGOs in support to federations of urban poor within the SDI network in Benin, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Brazil, India, and the Philippines. The grants will be managed by Cities Alliance, while SDI will provide technical support to its affiliates.

“Slum dwellers federations, community groups, street vendors, and waste pickers associations are the frontline actors in the COVID response. We must sustain the civil society fabric in the settlements to solve the crisis. This programme is a great opportunity to do so,” – Joseph Muturi, Chair of the SDI Management Committee.

The second component of the project combines the implementation of COVID-19 prevention and protection measures with initiatives to reduce the social and economic impacts of the epidemic. The activities will be carried out under the common United Nations framework for COVID-19 response, in collaboration with networks of Civil Based Organisations, including slum dwellers and informal workers’ groups in Bangladesh, Guatemala, Liberia, and Uganda.

The activities comprise the distribution of personal protective equipment and hygiene materials, the provision of water and sanitation facilities and the delivery of community awareness and outreach campaigns in slums, together with advocacy, learning and knowledge exchange at regional and global level, engaging Cities Alliance members.

The EUR 3 million initiative will be implemented over a period of 12 months.


UPDATE: Cities Alliance published this update to the below press release on 30 July 2020. 

New narratives for a ‘new normal’

Screenshot 2020-07-29 at 11.20.20


This post originally featured on the IIED blog. 

By Sheela Patel and Suranjana Gupta

Sheela Patel and Suranjana Gupta report that women at the grassroots are generating practical responses to the coronavirus pandemic. Their effectiveness in this crisis highlights the importance of including grassroots women in climate change planning.

Megan Rowling of the Thomson Reuters Foundation deserves at least half the credit for this piece. In a recent webinar on how grassroots groups are responding to the coronavirus, she called us out for using the ‘same old tired narratives’ presenting women as either ‘vulnerable’ or as ‘active agents’, leading us to reflect on why we use this language and to unpack some of the ideas behind these words.

Having worked with many grassroots women’s groups hit by major disasters, the Huairou Commission has seen repeatedly how organised grassroots women have dealt with disasters to get communities back on their feet. For instance:

  • In the most remote parts of Honduras, where no assistance reached communities for days after Hurricane Mitch, indigenous women fed their families bread made of an indigenous root that survived the floodwaters. The same group went on to create seed banks to revive indigenous crops and agricultural tool banks to restore farming.
  • In Turkey, earthquake-hit women monitored relief distribution and negotiated to improve sanitation and food in relief camps. They went on to organise women’s cooperatives that now run a country-wide network of women and children’s centres.
  • In India, grassroots women in earthquake-affected areas became communication assistants to the government, going door-to-door disseminating information on the housing reconstruction programme, and reported back to government on implementation problems.
  • In the Philippines, grassroots groups hit by Typhoon Haiyan initially monitored relief distribution in partnership with the national government and later created housing tool banks jointly managed with local government.

For nearly two decades now, Huairou Commission has supported hundreds of grassroots leaders from many countries – including Honduras, Jamaica, Turkey, India, Uganda, Zambia, Indonesia and Philippines – to travel within and outside their countries sharing practices, mentoring and advising their peers on reducing impacts of disaster and climate change.

What’s more, such exchanges have attracted the attention of local and national government agencies, getting them to recognise and legitimise grassroots women’s organisations.

At policy forums (particularly those focused on reducing disaster impacts), despite leadership roles played by grassroots women, they were conspicuously absent and persistently described as a ‘vulnerable group’, alongside children, the elderly and the disabled.

Paradoxically, women are caregivers to the other three groups. Like women, each of the other three groups offers valuable insights to address crises.

Despite the problems with bundling the four groups together, it has helped humanitarian efforts to considerably step up their responses to the special needs of these groups. But their narratives around vulnerability and responses to them essentially remain short term. They rarely examine the processes that impoverish and weaken the capacities of communities to withstand the onslaught of disasters in the first place. And the predominant narrative remains one in which women are cast as a vulnerable group, placing grassroots women-led scalable solutions in policymakers’ blind spot.

Promoting networks, partnerships and recognition

Social movements like the Huairou Commission, Slum Dwellers International (SDI) and WIEGO have consistently challenged this perspective. Years of investment in grassroots women’s movements have steadily built on grassroots initiatives – refining their practices, scaling them up through peer exchanges and government engagements – persuading governments to listen, learn and partner with grassroots organisations.

Can the COVID-19 crisis be an opportunity to mainstream such partnerships? Can the new normal we envisage turn grassroots-government partnerships into the ‘rule’ rather than the exception to it?

Grassroots movements play a critical role in collectivising grassroots groups through peer exchanges. Exchanges allow grassroots women to share practical knowledge, tell stories and build solidarity and even demonstrate how their leadership is recognised by local government.

This process of aggregation gradually elevates accidental initiatives, turning them into innovations which then coalesce to become scalable solutions. The consolidation of each solution lays the foundation for the next set of explorations.

Where there are responsive administrators or politicians, grassroots-government engagements can create an upsurge of collaborative action, pulling together grassroots and state resources to make concrete improvements in the lives of the poor, dramatically changing how women are perceived.

This kind of transformation, however, takes time. It can’t be accomplished through three-year projects. Resilience investments need to be long term. They have to produce a diversity of solutions to counter multi-generational deprivation and negligence that endangers the lives, livelihoods and wellbeing of economically and socially marginalised communities.

It is therefore vital to sustain community networks and maintain their visibility as drivers of development. As movements and networks gain public recognition, they are able to attract  an array of allies, expanding their reach to ensure that new investments produce lasting changes in the everyday lives of poor communities.

How grassroots women are delivering pandemic responses

Screenshot 2020-07-29 at 11.20.34


Grassroots organisations’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic are building on years of organising, learning and collective problem-solving. When governments announced lockdowns, grassroots women acted swiftly, putting to work their relationships with each other and with government; and drawing on collective resources built over time.

  • In the Philippines, grassroots leaders reached out to their networks in 24 rural barangays (districts) to disseminate information to educate communities on COVID-19. In informal settlements in the national capital, women-led water cooperatives used their savings to buy food for distribution.
  • In Nepal, women’s cooperatives coordinated with local governments and municipalities to distribute relief and community resilience funds managed by women’s cooperatives were drawn upon to give livelihoods restoration loans.
  • In India, women’s federations worked with village councils to distribute relief. They surveyed villages to identify those most in need of assistance and have already supported more than two thousand households to claim government entitlements. As early as March 2020, predicting food shortages, grassroots women encouraged their peers to plant vegetables. Three months later, vegetables from kitchen gardens are ensuring that families have nutritious food.
  • In SDI federations in several countries, including India, Kenya, South Africa Nigeria, Malawi and Zimbabwe, explored many possibilities based on stories of mask-making, soapmaking, quarantine management and food distribution – exchanged by their peers.

Are grassroots women driving these initiatives also victims of the crisis? Are they vulnerable to discrimination or exclusion?

Of course they are. But as movements focused on empowering grassroots women, we choose to emphasise grassroots women’s leadership as the foundation upon which their collective power is built.

When women are classified as ‘vulnerable’ they tend to become disempowered voiceless entities, excluded from decision-making. When we see grassroots women as drivers of change, we turn the spotlight on their innovations and contributions. And we can clearly see the value of involving them in public planning and decision-making.

So whether it is managing the COVID-19 crisis today or forging new pathways to adapt to the changing climate, shifting the narrative to focus on grassroots women’s agency is already a crucial step in the right direction of constructing new narratives for a new normal.


Sheela Patel is the founder and director of SPARC India and former chair of the SDI Board. Suranjana Gupta is advisor on community resilience at the Huairou Commission. 

Impact of Covid-19 on Nigeria’s Informal Settlements


An update from the Nigeria SDI Alliance, comprised of Justice & Empowerment Initiatives – Nigeria (JEI), the Nigerian Slum/Informal Settlement Federation (the Federation), and the Physically Challenged Empowerment Initiative (PCEI).


On 1 April 2020, Justice & Empowerment Initiatives – Nigeria (JEI), the Nigerian Slum/Informal Settlement Federation (the Federation), and the Physically Challenged Empowerment Initiative (PCEI) launched a quantitative survey and a qualitative storytelling campaign both designed to understand the impact of the COVID19 pandemic on informal settlements and vulnerable urban poor populations i n Lagos. With over half of Lagos’s 23 million residents living in informal settlements and slum communities, i t i s essential that policies and interventions aimed at curtailing the spread of the COVID-19 and mitigating its effect on livelihoods be informed by data that reflects the real l ived experiences of the urban poor. This dual-pronged effort aims to support more effective policy-making and public health interventions in real time. This report captures findings from research to date and real voices from across Lagos.

Screenshot 2020-07-01 at 16.03.58 Screenshot 2020-07-01 at 16.04.06

Community Awareness and Prevention Measures 

Accurate information and awareness about COVID-19 is key to preventing its spread. In March 2020, the Federation and PCEI launched a community awareness campaign through peer-to-peer, door-to-door education and distribution of fliers and facemasks, as well as demonstration hand-washing stations and hand sanitizer production. The survey aims to assess the reach of this and other awareness campaigns as well as the prevalence of prevention measures.

Screenshot 2020-07-01 at 16.09.38

Across the 144 slums and informal settlements surveyed, the Federation was the primary source of information about COVID19, followed by the government, and then other community groups and NGOs. Many communities reported no awareness campaigns had reached them. Physical infrastructure like public hand-washing stations remain very limited in communities.

Screenshot 2020-07-01 at 16.09.53


Lockdown, Stay at Home & Testing 

Two of the most effective government policies to control and curb the spread of COVID-19, across countries, have been lockdown and proactive, widespread testing. The Federal and Lagos State Governments have both taken steps to replicate these approaches during the first months of the outbreak in Nigeria. The survey aims to assess the effectiveness and reach of these policies in informal settlements and for the urban poor in Lagos.

Screenshot 2020-07-01 at 16.14.03


Encouragingly, a relatively high percentage of communities reported that all or most people were staying at home during the strict lockdown that was in place from 1 April – 4 May 2020. These numbers have steadily dropped as lockdown measures have been eased and general attitudes towards compliance have relaxed — a fact that is in stark contrast with the exponential growth in cases over the same period based on public data from the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

A strict lockdown followed by gradual easing is a strategy that has been used in some countries to increase preparedness of isolation centers, health facilities, and testing capacity. Unfortunately, access to testing remains extremely limited for the urban poor populations surveyed. Across communities, 83% of respondents reported that no one in the community had tried to get tested for COVID-19; 11% reported people had attempted but encountered challenges; only 6% reported someone in the community had been tested successfully. Anecdotal evidence suggests several reasons for these extremely low rates of testing: (1) Inability or unwillingness to identify COVID-19 symptoms; (2) fear of going for testing or helping an unwell person to go for testing; and (3) unavailability of localized testing in LGAs where the testing facilities are not yet active/accessible. The solution of proactive government door-to-door screening or testing campaigns had been announced in Lagos on 10 April 2020; however, as of date, only 7% of respondents report that the Lagos State Government door-to-door screening has reached their community.

Impact of the Pandemic on Lives & Livelihoods 

As the government imposed stay-at-home measures, shuttered non-essential businesses, and limited public transportation options, residents of informal settlements – already locked in a daily struggle to put food on the table – faced price hikes and widespread loss of income. Across communities, 78% reported people are unable to meet basic needs. Meanwhile, the vast majority of urban poor communities (85%) reported government-provided “palliatives” intended for the vulnerable had not reached them.

Screenshot 2020-07-01 at 16.16.26


“Something wey we dey buy 11,000, dem dey call am 22,000… they go try to kill us with hunger before sickness go come kill us…”

Corona Diaries of the Urban Poor; Stories from the Front Lines

Alongside the survey, JEI, the Federation, and PCEI have undertaken a community-driven storytelling campaign that has brought together a diverse array of perspectives from across informal settlements in Lagos – comprising over 50 stories thus far from over 30 communities – creating a body of narrative evidence to further-inform the picture painted in the data. Stories of hunger. Stories of insecurity and nighttime vigilante duty. Stories of a suspected COVID-19 case unable to access testing or get evacuated despite the efforts of neighbors and community health workers and an old man dying quietly in his beds.

Picture3These stories have spanned a diverse array of topics – often interweaving more than one person’s experience – that together situate the unfolding pandemic within the context of urban poverty in Lagos, and help to tell the “human side” of the charts and data points referenced in this report

You can explore the full collection of stories from across Lagos at:





Key Lessons Drawn from Survey Data & Narrative Accounts to Date 

  • As the Lagos active-caseload of coronavirus has steadily increased, adherence to social-distancing directives has decreased among informal settlement residents – peaking in the second week of April 2020 with 94% of communities reporting all or most of their residents are staying at home, and since declining to 11%. The fact that this trend began even before the official easing of lockdown measures suggests that desperation for food and basic necessities began to force urban poor populations to venture out even when there was a risk of arrest or prosecution as well as a risk of exposure to the virus With the easing of lockdown measures starting on 4 May 2020, this trend has worsened. Anecdotally, across the city we have witnessed reduced rates of compliance with mask wearing requirements, avoidance of larger social gatherings, etc. These trends should be cause for great alarm from a public health standpoint, combined with the limited access to testing and case reporting.  

LESSON: Absent government mandated and supported lockdown measures, stay at home will not be a reality for urban poor.

  • The limited rates of access to testing speaks to the extent to which official numbers of cases reported by the NCDC likely underrepresent reality on the With only 6% of communities reporting that anyone in the community has been tested for the virus, there is no basis for isolation and treatment of persons affected or other precautions to be put in place. The low number of reported cases from across communities surveyed – with only 6 reported cases and 1 suspected COVID19-linked death – reflects more on testing than on actual prevalence of the virus. Anecdotally, we have identified several deaths in informal settlements where COVID-19 symptoms were present prior to death but no testing was done to ascertain the cause. Starting from June 2020, we are adapting our survey approach to better understand the barriers to testing and also launching a pilot door-to-door screening in urban poor communities to try to link suspected cases with available testing facilities.

LESSON: Absent major outreach (such as door-to-door screening), rates of testing in urban poor communities will remain low.

  • Should the government consider reimposition of lockdown measures as the upwards trend in infections continues, lessons must be learned from the April 2020 Our data points to key problems that require careful planning to avoid:
    1. Limitations imposed on business and movement lead to price-hikes on foodstuffs in informal While some price-increases may be opportunistic, supply constraints caused by movement restrictions appears a secondary cause.
    2. Dissemination of food aid and other assistance must leverage existing social networks – e.g. grassroots networks such as the Federation and PCEI – in order to reach the necessary scale and reach the most vulnerable residents of
    3. Insecurity threatens to undermine future “lockdown” directives if unaccompanied by effective government support and increased community-government partnership to increase security on ground. The government must also declare legal and paralegal services providers “essential workers” to enable access to justice for the urban poor during

LESSON: Future lockdown measures should be carefully tailored and co-designed by government, private sector, civil society, and communities to prevent insecurity, avoid disruption of food supplies, and ensure assistance reaches the most vulnerable.


ABOUT US: Justice & Empowerment Initiatives – Nigeria (JEI) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization working to empower poor and marginalized communities to innovate their own justice and development solutions. The Nigerian Slum / Informal Settlement Federation is a movement of the urban poor for dignity and development with membership from hundreds of communities in Lagos and Rivers States and expanding to other cities across the country. The Physically Challenged Empowerment Initiative is a grassroots movement of urban poor people living with disabilities.

Since before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in Lagos, we have together led the charge on community health education, distribution of fliers in five languages and facemasks, as well as distribution of food assistance to nearly 30,000 urban poor households affected by lockdown with generous support from the Indian Community of Lagos, in addition to the efforts reported here.

The survey and storytelling efforts discussed in this report are simultaneously being replicated in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, and Cotonou, Republic of Benin. Reports on the findings of those reports will be published separately and available at

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.

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


[video width="640" height="352" mp4=""][/video]


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.

WhatsApp Image 2020-06-02 at 3.45.33 PM

  • 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. 

WhatsApp Image 2020-06-02 at 14.26.32

“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.”

Malawi SDI Alliance Response to Covid-19

Screenshot 2020-05-27 at 13.31.13

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]


WhatsApp Image 2020-05-21 at 14.44.05


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=""][/video]