In slums around the world, impossible confinement

A volunteer distributes basic necessities to families in the Vila Kennedy slum in Rio de Janeiro on April 2. RICARDO MORAES / REUTERS

Ugandan police officers who shoot gunshot wounds on two men trying to escape containment. Or Indian police officers who strike with their batons, sometimes to the death, of residents who leave their homes, or who humiliate them in public. In slums around the world, containment measures have been accompanied by violence and, at times, the deployment of the military to enforce them. "Imposing confinement on residents means leaving them to starve to death", said W. Gyude Moore, former minister public works in Liberia and researcher at the Center for Global Development.

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Residents need to leave their homes, if only to fetch water and be able to wash their hands. To work, then: only the daily pay provides food. The so-called “precarious” or daily workers represent between 50 and 80% of the working population in low and middle income countries. For them, it is not only social distancing that allows them to survive, but also family or community solidarity.

“Housing has become the primary protection against coronavirus. Home has rarely been so much a matter of life and death ”Leilani Farha, United Nations rapporteur

One-third of the world's urban population, those living in overcrowded slums, are most at risk from the Covid-19 virus. " Housing has become the primary protection against coronavirus. Home has rarely been so much a matter of life and death "Said Leilani Farha, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, on March 18. What is all the more worrying is that these informal camps lack health centers and concentrate populations in precarious health, suffering from malnutrition or other epidemics such as tuberculosis. The closure of schools, beyond the consequences on education, threatens the malnutrition of millions of students by depriving them of school meals. "The risks of abuse and exploitation for girls and boys are higher than ever", worries UNICEF. In the Philippines, containment has also resulted in the suspension of polio vaccination campaigns.

Another threat: the cessation of food or humanitarian aid

Another threat looms in refugee camps: the cessation of food or humanitarian aid. Norwegian Refugee Council says it has lost contact with 300,000 beneficiaries of its programs in the Middle East and is concerned about movement restrictions due to border closings, jeopardizing the distribution of aid, including soap, water or hygienic kits. Not to mention the cost of transporting material aid which has exploded with the reduction in air and sea traffic. " If aid workers can no longer deploy emergency aid due to containment measures, vital supplies will be cut off and displaced people will lose their sole source of livelihood Said Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council.


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