Coronavirus (309) The catastrophe confronting the urban poor

2 April, 2020

Extracts from The New Humanitarian. Full text:

Coronavirus in the city: A Q&A on the catastrophe confronting the urban poor

‘While all populations are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, not all populations are affected equally.’

Health systems in the world’s megacities and crowded urban settlements are about to be put under enormous strain as the new coronavirus takes hold, with the estimated 1.2 billion people who live in informal slums and shanty-towns at particular risk.


- The coronavirus is revealing the breadth of economic and social inequalities. Roughly 1.2 billion people live in informal settlements.

- There has not been major investment in preparing megacities cities for pandemics.

- COVID-19’s most significant threat may be from the political and economic fallout.

- Rapid urbanisation has shifted the front lines of many crises to cities, rather than rural areas. Aid groups have been slow to adjust.

- Urban aid requires major changes in how international groups operate: there will be less emphasis on direct delivery and more emphasis on partnerships.

- In some cases, aid groups may need to work alongside armed groups.


'In November of 2019, the Global Parliament of Mayors issued a call for such a platform. It called for funding from national governments to develop crucial public health capacities and to develop networks to disseminate trusted information. The mayors also committed to achieving at least 80 percent vaccination coverage, reducing the spread of misinformation, improving health literacy, and sharing information on how to prevent and reduce the spread of infectious disease. A recent article published with Rebecca Katz provides some insights into what this might look like.'

Best wishes, Neil

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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - ), a global community with more than 19,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: