UN-Habitat COVID-19 Response in informal settlements of Yangon
– by using community-driven approach –

Continuing our COVID-19 response, recovery and prevention efforts from 2020 to protect the most vulnerable people in peri urban areas and highly densely populated areas, UN-Habitat will be working in 8 townships of Yangon, reaching out to at least 25,000 households and 76,500 students by providing access to safe water, improved environmental sanitation through water supply infrastructures, hand washing stations, solid-waste management and sharing information, education and communication (IEC) materials.

Informal settlements in Yangon house an estimated 400,000 people who live in extremely poor environment, and the residents of these informal settlements in Yangon find themselves at the forefront of the battle against COVID-19. Vast majority of these settlements live in highly dense areas, lack access to water and sanitation, hygiene practices and inadequate housing, thus increasing the risk of mass COVID-19 transmission within these settlements.

In recognizing the serious public health emergency in informal settlements, UN-Habitat has conducted a rapid impact assessment study and a socio-economic impact of COVID-19 in informal settlements with the financial support from JICA, that aimed to present evidence-based data on view of the extant socio-economic conditions in informal settlements in Yangon. The surveys conducted in April and November 2020 presented alarming results with 93.1% households that had reported a fall in income, 85.6% of households reported difficulty in accessing healthcare not having enough money and 99.1% of households reported having no savings over the past 30 days.

A serious public health emergency has been existent in informal settlements in Yangon, and UN-Habitat has been joining hands with community volunteers, Urban poor network and Community Based Organizations in several townships to support the communities to combat COVID-19.

In May 2020, UN-Habitat through funding from its headquarters supported 60,500 direct beneficiaries in informal settlements in Yangon and Sittwe in public preparedness to combat COVID-19 by expanding access to water, essential support kits, sanitizers and direct support to combat loss of income provided to its community mobilizers and volunteers. Through this project, UN-Habitat provided 173 Handwashing stations with soap installed in key locations in informal settlements and 32 schools. 106,510 surgical masks and 27,500 cloth masks were distributed to residents of informal settlements and school children. PPE packages lasting 2 months were provided to 3 health centers serving residents of informal settlements.

As the battle against Covid-19 came at a time of acute water shortage, UN-Habitat also worked with community groups and small businesses in key locations across Sittwe to install a network of 27 public handwashing stations.

In addition, “Housing at the forefront of the COVID-19 response”, a discussion paper advocating for greater protection of housing rights was published by UN-Habitat in May 2020 which drew attention of urban stakeholders and government authorities on enhancing preparedness and increased coordination among the state holder during pandemic response for the urban poor.

Similarly, under the National Urban Policy Programme supported by the Republic of Korea, UN-Habitat has additionally reached over 12,500 people and 2,529 households supporting them with essential prevention kits including masks, sanitizers and hand washing soap. Through its community driven approach, UN-Habitat mobilized existing community volunteers, community development committees and engaged with urban poor network and community-based organization in Hlaing Tharyar and Dala townships, which host a third of all informal settlements in Yangon. The help provided by the established 36 community volunteers, were supported with honorariums, were vital in improving the community’s knowledge of the pandemic, and access to reliable and accurate information and IEC materials were made available. 17 additional handwashing station were made available to the community through this emergency assistance.

These projects have further invited additional funding from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in September 2020, allowing UN-Habitat to provide support to an additional 84,000 people including 47,000 school children with 6 different IEC Communication materials on COVID-19 prevention through 45 community volunteers equipped with personal protective equipment. 60 schools were also supported with critical cleaning supplies and students provided with COVID-19 protection kits including cloth mask, face shield visor and thermometers. As public preparedness against COVID-19 should cover access to water and hygiene, UN-habitat has provided 220 handwashing stations in strategic locations in informal settlements, schools and health centers. Additionally, 5 health centers located in informal settlements in different townships have been strengthened by provision of IEC materials, Handwashing stations and essential support kits.

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