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Covid-19: National lockdown hardest for poor SA families

Published Mar 31, 2020


Cape Town - Poverty, unemployment, overcrowding, poor sanitation, and lack of sustainable income and food security will make it difficult for some families to adhere to measures such as the countrywide lockdown.

Director at Molo Songololo, Patric Solomons, said about 60% of children and their families would struggle to implement such measures.

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“Poor children’s living conditions present various risks to them. Poor sanitation and a lack of soap and basic hygiene and disinfecting products with five and more people living in a one-bedroom room shack or municipal house make the prevention measures unattainable for many,” said Solomons.

He said Covid-19 presented a massive threat to poorer communities and that there was an urgent need for community consultations, support and involvement in the fight against the pandemic.

Patricia Zwieg from the Research Alliance for Disaster and Risk Reduction at Stellenbosch University, said people living in shacks faced a range of problems in trying to isolate themselves and their households.

“I am not sure how they will keep this going over a period of three weeks. There is also still some disbelief out there about the dangers associated with the virus, although this is fast changing and will change even more once people start getting sick.”

Zwieg said access to basic services among those living in informal dwellings is limited and shared, therefore increasing the risk of contagion.

“This is also true of many backyard shack dwellers who nobody seems to be considering. Our research has revealed high levels of shared or even non-existent basic services exist among backyard dwellers, who are very often just as badly off as those living in informal settlements.

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“Their proximity to their landlords and other backyard households is concerning as many share kitchen and bathroom facilities and even pass through the main house to exit the property.”

She said open space around shacks was usually limited and sometimes non-existent. 

“How does one keep kids inside a small space for days on end? Parents must be tearing their hair out! How do you control children in such constrained spaces? They usually would run around between dwellings – now they cannot even do that. It is thus virtually impossible unless you have a TV they can watch and not everyone does.”

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Cape Argus

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