Covid-19: Abahlali baseMjondolo lists 15 'pro-poor' demands for shack dwellers

23 March 2020 - 11:34
By Zimasa Matiwane
Abahlali baseMjondolo says residents in informal settlements are most vulnerable to Covid-19.
Image: ANTONIO MUCHAVE Abahlali baseMjondolo says residents in informal settlements are most vulnerable to Covid-19.

Civil society organisation Abahlali baseMjondolo is pleading with the government to halt evictions at informal settlements and prioritise water and sanitation services for shack dwellers during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The organisation said poor people have not been considered when it comes to preventing coronavirus or included in decision making, resulting in the organisation listing 15 “pro-poor” demands.

These include paid leave for domestic workers, water and sanitation, information about the virus in all languages, municipal refuse removal, food parcels and price caps on basic food items.

The organisation said people living in shack settlements were faced with many other diseases, such as cholera, tuberculosis, HIV and stress-related conditions.

It also decried the difficulty of self-isolating, as living conditions are extremely congested. This comes as SA recorded  274 cases of Covid-19 and the government continued to urge the public to practise preventive measures, such as social distancing, hand hygiene and cough etiquette. 

“This is as a direct result of the failure of the government to provide housing and basic services to our communities, the failures and decline of the health-care system, as well as the economic crisis that has resulted in mass unemployment.

“Our members have also expressed concern that the high unemployment rate and the extreme poverty in shack settlements makes it difficult for us to stay in our homes. If we do stay at home we may die as a result of starvation before the virus gets us,” said KwaZulu-Natal provincial chairperson Mqapheli Bonono.

Bonono said members have stressed that many people do not have regular or easy access to water and proper sanitation, and are still relieving themselves in bushes. He added that there was fear that the virus would hit impoverished people the hardest.

Sanitiser and all other medically required equipment must be made available to all at no cost and residents of shack settlements who test positive for the virus must be given safe and dignified accommodation in which they can self-isolate,” Bonono said.