Evictions of slums and pavements result in the urban poor being pushed to the margins of the city, where their needs and stark income/health disparities are rendered largely invisible
The urban poor who are often neglected within health and education services, policy and development practice, make up an important backbone of the economic and social fabric of Bangladesh. Bangladesh’s growth and emergence as a “middle income” economy has been made possible due labour abundance, low wages, and informal jobs. Unfortunately, the urban poor are forced to live (and remain) in slums, squatter settlements or on the pavements in order to survive.
However, evictions of slums and pavements result in the urban poor being pushed to the margins of the city, where their needs and stark income/health disparities are rendered largely invisible. In addition, the ongoing lockdown measures are disproportionately affecting them, posing greater challenges in everyday life.
Sajida Foundation, a value-driven NGO, is dedicated to bring health, happiness and dignity in the lives of the marginalized and disadvantaged has been in the frontline since the onset of the covid-19 pandemic. Sajida’s urban poverty team has conducted two rapid response surveys in April and June to understand the concerns, changes and challenges faced by a cohort of 572 pavement, squatter and under-developed slum dwellers. The surveys were conducted via telephone with beneficiaries of “AmraoManush” - a project of Sajida Foundation which aims to improve the lives and livelihoods of the extreme urban poor in Dhaka and Chittagong. The key findings are as follows:
Lockdown measures have had an adverse impact on livelihood
In June, 94.3% of respondents reported that they were worried about unemployment and limited income.
In April, 55% of participants reported an increase in violence since lockdown.
In addition, 26% of participants reported experiencing health and ‘Covid’ related verbal and physical harassment.
Covid symptoms are occurring in low-income areas. When respondents were asked if they had experienced hallmark symptoms of Covid-19 (fever, dry cough and difficulty breathing), 11% responded yes. However, encouragingly, only 2.5% of respondents in June reported knowing anyone who had died from these symptoms.
Measures taken and way forward
The urban poor require a multi-layered, responsive actions. Actions which will address their immediate livelihood, health and wellbeing needs. They also require solutions to address the structural barriers to housing, employment and health.
Keeping these in mind, Sajida has operationalized a wide range of activities to assist the urban poor during this pandemic. The “AmraoManush” project is currently engaging communities to learn about their needs and working with them to introduce alternative livelihood options and skills training program. Going forward, Sajida will continue, sustain and evolve its interventions to respond to the needs of the urban poor.