Worried as the world lives through an unprecedented social and economic crisis caused by Covid-19, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) unveiled a response plan for the pandemic, targeting vulnerable communities where the impact of the pandemic is severer.
An agency of the United Nations, UN-Habitat which is based in over 90 countries of the world, works for a better urban future and promotes the development of socially and environmentally sustainable cities towns and communities.
Covid-19 has caused the loss of tens of thousands of lives while over 200 countries has been affected. In just a few months, the pandemic has changed the way people live, work, travel and socialize.
Susannah Price, the agency’s chief of communication, noted that over 95 percent of world’s coronavirus cases are in urban areas across over 210 countries in nearly 1,500 cities. She pointed out that people living in slums or informal settlements are particularly at risk and constitute the most vulnerable communities of the world.
“These people live in overcrowded conditions, lack adequate housing and basic services such as water and sanitation and many are informal workers surviving from one day to the next,” Price said, adding, “this makes it extremely hard to implement measures to slow transmission such as physical distancing, self-quarantine, hand-washing or community-wide lockdowns.
In Nigeria, the government found it extremely difficult to effectively enforce a five-week lockdown it imposed on the federal capital territory (FCT), Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states because many of the people living in slum areas of the three cities are mainly people living on dollar-a-day.
“You can’t expect a man with a family who survives on daily income and is almost homeless in terms of the nature of accommodation he has to obey the stay-at-home order by the government. He must go out because the continued existence of his family depends on that,” Henry Nwosu, a public health worker told BusinessDay.
UN-Habitat’s multi-million dollar initiative to help the most vulnerable in cities and communities is therefore targeted at people in this class. Nigeria is one of the 20 African countries to benefit from the response plan.
Others are Angola, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
In Africa, the Arab States, Asia Pacific, Latin American and the Caribbean, the agency is working with its partners on ground, including mayors, governors, transport and utility providers, women, youth and community organizations and NGOs to urgently deliver the $72 million Response Plan.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, described as the fastest urbanizing region in the world, a $33.3 million project has been launched. More than 60 percent of the urban population live in informal settlements and are now exposed to the risk of Covid-19 as well as the pandemic’s social and economic impacts.
It is expected that this catalytic support from the agency will amplify the impact of ongoing initiatives by central and local governments, communities and other UN agencies and the agency has assured that funding requirements would be updated as the situation evolves and needs are further assessed.
Maimunah Mohd Sharif, UN-Habitat’s Executive Director, affirmed that the agency’s team is working night and day to help city and community leaders on the frontline of this pandemic to reduce the risks in informal settlements and help the most vulnerable.
“With our extensive network of partners as well as our in-house experts, UN-Habitat is working closely with cities and communities to find innovative and targeted solutions to provide water and sanitation, safe transport and to mitigate the economic impact on the urban poor,” Sharif said.
Continuing, he assured, “we want to help build up the resilience of our community partners to respond to specific and varied challenges over the coming months and beyond.”