Zambian Federation & PPHPZ: Responses to COVID-19
On behalf of the Zambian Federation and People’s Process on Housing and Poverty in Zambia (PPHPZ) – SDI presents the work to fight COVID-19 across Zambia.The following is an account directly from the SDI affiliate in Zambia, alongside updates on the current work of the Zambian Federation & PPHPZ.
Approximately 40% (6 million) Zambians live in urban areas and 70% (4.2 million) of those living in urban areas live in the slums known as “compounds.” The spread of COVID-19 across the globe has been through human to human transmission of individuals traveling from country to country, thus, the misconception is that it is a disease that affects the ‘rich and privileged’. On the contrary, comparatively informal settlement dwellers face a much greater risk to Covid-19. Life in the slums (compounds) is characterized by poor quality housing and inadequate access to clean water and sanitation. If water is available, its either intermittent or of compromised quality. Streets are characterized by overcrowding, and poor planning, with electricity intermittently provided. Another obstacle is limited access to household and public sanitation – this service is crucial in combating the spread of disease such as COVID-19 pandemic. The absence of public toilets curtails and hinders efforts of fighting pandemics as fecal matter can spread diseases in the community.
In Zambia, cases of cholera outbreaks in informal settlements have ceased in the headlines with seasonal outbreaks on yearly basis becoming the norm. During epidemics, slum residents are more vulnerable to respiratory infections owing to the fact that people are overcrowded and congested in their communities & houses without proper ventilation fueling mass spreading of COVID-19. Poverty levels are exceptionally with cases of malnutrition exacerbating chronic infections despite widespread vaccinations and social sensitization programmes. The number of infections in these communities are always double than those in planned, affluent suburbs.
COVID-19 is an exceptionally dangerous due to the fact that it is highly infectious even in asymptomatic patients with no current vaccine or cure. While current statistics demonstrate that confirmed cases are low, with none confirmed cases in the compounds, the ravaging effect the virus would have in the slums would be devastating.
The global community of health experts have recommended three simple yet fundamental effective tools to combat the spread of the virus and these strategies need to be critically examined to check their efficacy. The Zambian government, in line with the advice from both local and international health experts have recommended the following:
Hand Washing and Sanitizing:
In the context of slums, hand washing can significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19; however, under the current circumstances, this tool will not work unless access to affordable or free water is provided in the informal settlements. In most settlements like Kanyama, the biggest settlement in Zambia, water is still intermittent, inadequate and expensive for the average employed resident. Currently a 20 litre container is pegged at 50 ngwee and on average a family needs at least 200 litres translating to 5 kwacha every day or 150 kwacha per month, a figure which is unaffordable by most residents, where water is also rationed. In George compound, water kiosks are opened at 6.00 – 10.00 and 17.00 to 18.00. To avoid any escalation, taps need to be opened at all times until the virus is defeated.
The situation is worsened by electricity cuts due to maintenance and load shedding and will further deteriorate due to loss of supply from independent suppliers for the next two weeks. Electricity is needed to pump water by water trusts who are charged with the supply of water as well as private borehole owners in most settlements. Without water, curbing the spread of the COVID-19 through hand washing is impossible. It is time that the Zambian government provides free water in each and every compound.
This strategy will save our government millions of kwachas while saving many lives. It is a travesty that utility companies like Lusaka Water & Sewerage have not yet been directed or capacitated to provide this essential service to the most vulnerable settlements. In the absence of free or affordable clean water, communities will either resort to shallow wells that are heavily contaminated or will opt to use water sparingly thereby not washing hands frequently.
Coupled with provision of free water, should be the provision of hand-washing stations at all public toilets, bus stations, and markets in congested homesteads. The biggest markets like Old Soweto in Lusaka, Masala Market in Ndola, and Chisokone Market in Kitwe should be immediately provided with hand washing facilities and sanitizing agents. Distribution of hand washing stations, sanitisers, soaps needs to be broad based and not simply through locally recognized structures like the Councilor’s Office and the Ward Development Committees. The challenge is bigger than these local structures, grassroots community associations, and savings schemes the likes of the Zambia Homeless and Poor People‘s, but the responsibility of the state. Federations and Cooperatives need to be engaged – involving grassroots associations and savings schemes at the local level is crucial.
Hand washing has been a privilege of medium to high income residents. To exacerbate the exclusion of the poor, almost every shop has quadrupled the price of hand sanitizers owing to the huge demand by those who can afford them. Efforts should be targeted at subsidizing the prices through the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission. There is an opportunity to start working with community-based groups to make homemade sanitizers supporting livelihood initiatives in these troubled times.
Social distancing i.e. staying at home, closing schools, isolating the sick, keeping at least 1 meter apart, and avoiding hugging and shaking hands:
Social distancing is currently the least expensive and the most affordable tool to each and every individual; however, in mostly densely populated communities, it is almost unavoidable. Closing the markets and the shops could trigger serious financial security issues as people are likely to starve due to food shortages. Most residents cannot afford to buy food in advance, as they live hand to mouth. A lock down without the possibility of working will cause serious resistance from these vulnerable communities. This demands that people should continue trading but alongside serious protective mechanisms.
Wearing Protective Gear:
Face masks can assist in reducing infection rates of COVID-19 if they are available and affordable. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19, face masks have significantly increased in price with poor people have been cut out off completely in accessing masks. An opportunity exists to work with grassroots community groups, savings schemes and cooperatives in the mass production of masks produced with chitenge materials. Government and cooperating partners should channel support to the grassroots to produce masks, as this will inevitably drastically reduce and eliminate the exaggerated prices currently prevailing in the market. A chitenge made mask can be washed and disinfected everyday ensuring that they are accessible to the masses, while providing a sustainable solution.
Overall, it can be seen that efforts to combat the virus should be broad based and all inclusive; organized grassroots associations & savings schemes ought to be at the center of fighting the pandemic, not just health workers or government alone. Any solution being proffered has to be within the reach of the most vulnerable. Water, as a matter of urgency needs to be provided for free by state, private sector and individuals who have their own boreholes. Let’s not make a mistake mistake of making community members mere beneficiaries and health workers and government are seen as the only actors in the fight.
Currently the Zambian Federation & PPHPZ is working closely with the Lusaka City Council & Ministry of Health. They have mobilised sed youth teams in creating COVID-19 related content (videos, posters, jingles, etc.) translated into local languages circulated on social media platforms, local radio stations to sensitize communities. Federation savings & youth members have been trained as hygiene stewards to champion community-led initiatives to educate and distribute hand sanitizers, masks, gloves and liquid soap. PPHPZ has identified local schools, churches and community halls as potential warehouses, distribution centers and spaces to accommodate infected people. The Lusaka Federation will use its Resource Centre in George Township for warehousing food and other essential materials.
Please keep following SDI as we highlight the initiatives of SDI affiliates across Africa, Asia & Latin America in the fight against COVID-19 to support the most vulnerable throughout this pandemic.
Discussing Slum Upgrading Strategies: SDI Attends Habitat III
By Joseph Kimani (Muungano Support Trust, Kenya) and Joseph Muturi (Muungano Wa Wanavijiji, Kenya)
Imagine a world without slums. Fine, let’s keep it close: imagine the city of Nairobi, Cape Town, Mumbai or your favorite city without a single informal settlement, slum or shacks. That is exactly the thing…your mind is probably saying, “Well it is possible.” Perhaps you are also wondering how this could be possible and, in reality, how that could happen. Most likely you are also pondering whether we have the same definition of slums or shacks. Are the favellas in Brazil the same as the ghettos in Kenya, or are the slums in India the same as those in South Africa? Can slums in Nairobi, Mumbai, Brazil, South Africa or anywhere be defined the same way? Are access to sanitation, water, infrastructure and services and secure tenure the only indicators that we should use to measure the extinction of slums? These were some of the main issues addressed at Habitat III, a UN Habitat sponsored international conference that took place in November 2012 in Rabat, Morocco.
The three-day conference was organized by the Government of Morocco under the patronage of His Majesty King Mohammed VI and under the authority of UN-HABITAT as an effort to share best practices on policies and the implementation of slum upgrading, eradication and prevention programmes by local and national governments around the world. The organizers invited 20 top countries that have been rated as having performed best in making slums history. The specific objectives of the conference were:
- Develop specific recommendations and guidelines for slum improvement policies and the development of well-adapted housing alternatives to prevent new slum formation (the Rabat Declaration).
- Devise the strategy required to revise Target 7-D of the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) and adjust it more closely to the diversity of national conditions and circumstances.
- Share successful experiences, methodologies and evaluation methods with regard to slum reduction.
- Broaden the scope of experience-sharing within the conference to bring in Least performing Countries (and African countries in particular), to help them implement effective slum reduction policies.
- Strengthen partnerships between Morocco and other African countries.
The Rabat Conference brought together over 150 participants representing 24 government delegations. The countries identified as the 20 best performers in slum upgrading invited were: Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Peru, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Turkey, Uganda and Vietnam.
Summary report of the plenary discussions, workshops and expert group meeting:
Some of those who spoke at the conference included the Minister of Housing, City Planning and Urban Policy of Morocco, the UN-Habitat Director, Cities Alliance, World Bank and SDI. In our main presentation, we were able to present SDI’s background, mandate and experience by highlighting the role of the community in slum upgrading. We then shared our perspectives on slums post-2015 MDGs or perspectives that we thought stakeholders in slum upgrading need to consider as UN HABITAT proposes to develop Sustainable Development Goals. We presented three key points that we argued were important in helping a slum upgrading process to take shape, and some of our perspectives regarding the development of Sustainable Development Goals. Here our main argument was with respect to the issue of community organization and the role of the rituals of the federations in promoting community ownership and community led initiatives. We provided examples of Huruma Slum Upgrading in Huruma, Kenya and our experience of the Kenya Railway Relocation Programme. Our second point stressed that land delivery was a prerequisite for any slum upgrading to happen.
Using our Kenyan example again we shared the challenges of attempting to make slums history when in a situation like Nairobi in which 50% of the slums are on private land and another 40% are on land considered to be unlivable (i.e. riparian and railway reserve and high-risk zones such as those living under the high voltage electrical powerline). This allowed us to highlight the need of government and all actors address the issue of land. Our third point was the need to scale up successful cases by not only choosing to deal with the settlements that are appealing, but to also invest in finding solutions to deal with informal settlements that appear to be difficult. Our major issue on this matter was to encourage all players to consider looking at slum upgrading as both functional and spatial and as a broader strategy of poverty alleviation.
Joseph Muturi of Muungano wa Wanavijiji addresses the audience.
Below is a sample of comments and suggestions captured during sessions by SDI representatives.
“We would have wished to see more representation of the slum dwellers, especially from the case studies, shared in this conference. One would have hoped that the hosts would have had in this conference representative of upgraded areas as well as those that have not succeeded or waiting to benefit”. – Joseph Muturi, during the thematic workshop session on Planning, Land Management and Urban.
“In the spirit of sharing could we have in the future conferences representation by countries considered to be under performing in slum upgrading processes or those that have the potential and yet challenged in whatever form. It is amazing to hear stories of change and success and one hopes some of countries would have benefitted a lot from the experiences shared here and could have re-kindled hope to those that have despaired and lost hope of assisting the poor.” – Suggestion by Joseph Kimani, Program Manager at MuST during the South-South Cooperation Session.
“I want to acknowledge and appreciate that this conference has provided most of us with valuable knowledge and experience. In fact I kind of agree with most of the presenters who holds that we can make slums history in our world. However I strongly propose that we ensure that the message we are taking home to all our governments and slum upgrading stakeholders is that the role of the community in this processes should not be underrated at all. In fact is it possible for all of us professionals and Government as well to allow the slum upgrading process to be led by the slum dwellers while we journey with them in this process, so that the issue is not just mere participation and inclusion for the sake of it but to carry with us the spirit and commitment that requires the people to be at the center of their own developments.” – Statement by Joseph Kimani during the Expert Group Meeting.
Our main question: Is it possible to make slums history? How did the Morocco attain this goal?
The Moroccan speakers took all the participants through their journey of making slums history in their nationwide “Cities without slums” programme which focuses on improved shelter conditions for over 1,742,000 people living in informal, substandard housing, contributing to better urban inclusiveness and social cohesion. We learnt that since 2004 the Morocco programme has achieved over 70 per cent of its overall objective. The speakers too acknowledged there were challenges that they are facing as a government while implementing the programme but emphasised that the 70% success so far has been as a result of the strong push of their strong leadership, political will, well defined objectives, an appropriate modus operandi and adequate budgeting.
In a nutshell as documented in the National Report (2012) the ‘Cities without Shanties” programme has made it possible to:
- Reduce the demographic weight of household dwellings in shanties across Moroccan cities and towns from 8.2% to 3.9% between 2004 and 2010;
- Improve the living conditions of roughly 1 million inhabitants;
- Declare 45 cities without shanties out of a total of 85.
In achieving the above, Morocco and many other countries in the world have managed to beat MDG Target 7-D by a multiple of 2.2, namely to “significantly improve living conditions for at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020.” UN HABITAT estimates that, between 2000 and 2010, a total 227 million people in developing countries have experienced significant improvements in living conditions.
General lessons drawn from the conference:
The presentations by best performing countries like Brazil, China, Morocco, Turkey highlighted the extent countries and their governments can go to to improve the standards of those living in informal settlements through scaled-up housing developments. However, it should be noted that caution should be taken to ensure that the large scale housing developments do not create shells of void, silence and emptiness by ignoring the value of human development. This is summarized in the quote below:
“What we aim at… is not simply to have shanty-free cities, still less to set up soulless concrete slabs which thwart all forms of sociable living. We rather intend to evolve cities that are not solely conducive to smart, friendly, and dignified living, but also investment-friendly and productive spaces – urban areas, that is, which are attached to their specific character and to the originality of their style.” – Extract from the Speech delivered by His Majesty King Mohammed VI on the occasion of the National Convention of Local Collectivities Agadir, 12/12/2006.
The fact that some of the presenters and participants appreciated and acknowledged the role of SDI in facilitating and enabling urban poor communities i to be the drivers of slum upgrading and human development was very encouraging and inspiring. It is with this same spirit that we hope those of us within SDI will continue to work hard in ensuring that slum upgrading does not only become a rhetoric of the state authorities and institutions but remains real and focused towards addressing the economic, social and physical needs of the people. It is our desire to see countries like Kenya respond by speeding up efforts to scale up slum improvements. The ability is there, the resources are with the public and private institutions, and all that we hope for now is the government’s goodwill and commitment.