Release date: 27th April 2020
CHSD STATEMENT ON HOUSING AND COVID-19
EMERGING PATTERNS OF HOUSING IMPACT
In order to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Federal Government of Nigeria mandated the total lock down of FCT Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states from March 30, 2020. Since then, the Governors’ Forum has instituted inter-state travel ban across the country, all in efforts to prevent and contain imminent community spread. Since there is, as yet, no cure for COVID-19, Public Health Measures is the preferred method of management. These include hygiene practices, social distancing, state lockdowns to limit non-essential trips, all of which are encased in the simple message of ‘Stay at Home’.
The home has become the place of safety for the non-infected, a place of prevention for isolation for unconfirmed cases and a place of recovery for patients who have survived the disease. It is therefore very important to ascertain that the home, and its immediate neighborhood, provide the safe and secured environment to prevent and/or mitigate rapid community spread. Housing therefore has become a priority focal area for responding to the pandemic.
The Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development at the University of Lagos embarked on a survey to provide better understanding of how housing adequacy affects the ability of residents to protect themselves and their families from the pandemic and their capacity to adhere to Public Health Measures in the prevention of community spread.
The survey was conducted through an on-line survey between the 1st and 12th of April, 2020 with 453 respondents providing information on their lived experiences and coping strategies. The survey results have highlighted some opportunities, revealed key areas of concern from which we raise recommendations for immediate mitigation of community spread as well as for Post-Lockdown actions.
1. At 94% in agreement, there is a high level of alignment with the ‘Stay at Home Measure’ which the Government can optimize for more effective management of the Pandemic.
2. Most respondents knew to call the emergency help lines of either the Lagos State Government or the NCDC. A good proportion also knew the major symptoms of the disease, the need to maintain physical distance and also to go into self-isolation if showing symptoms. This shows that the efforts of the Government in public enlightenment have been relatively effective thus far.
3. Most trips outside the home have been for food supplies, and only 6% reporting they still have to go out to work. This evidences the effectiveness of the lock-down in limiting non-essential trips.
1. For people of predominantly professional class, with better housing conditions than most others, only 36% indicated they had a spare room in their homes to dedicate to self-isolation. For residents who have up to 8 people in their households, with one habitable room, there is NO recourse to self-isolation in the home should the need arise, and this presents a high risk of community spread from the individual to family members and then neighbors.
2. The capacity to practice social and physical distancing for some classes of residents is low, because they share sanitary facilities (kitchens, bathrooms and toilets) with up to 9 other families in the same building, where up to 21 other families also live. The proximity of closeness would limit individuals’ space for physical distancing especially where room occupancy rate is also high.
3. There were concerns that lack of basic services including constant water, electricity and security for all could undermine the stay at home measures.
4. While there is a high level of alignment with stay at home measures, people apply ‘safety at home’ measures to the extent that they are able to practice. Regular handwashing hygiene, social distancing and limiting visitors are common practices. However, there is a high dependency on purchased water which could compromise the capacity to carry out frequent handwashing hygiene at home.
5. There is an appallingly low rate of community preparedness, with only 10% reporting knowledge of preparedness by their community and these are typically residents of housing estates. The most common practice is temperature checks and use of sanitizers at entry point.
6. There is a high account of limited direct benefits from government in terms of personal protective equipment (facemasks, gloves, sanitizers) and community fumigation exercises.
7. Direct palliatives in the form of food supply is seen as a mandatory duty of the governments to all its citizens at this time, but most especially to vulnerable peoples and residents of low-income areas to reduce the compulsion of going out to work. This would imply flaunting of safety at home measures.
1. BASIC AMENITIES: The success of public health measures in the pandemic situation is hinged on past actions of government in providing adequate housing. Where there are deficiencies, there is a need for immediate public investment in short term housing adequacy measures such as secured and decent sanitary facilities and waste management to reduce pressure. We also recommend post-lockdown neighborhood regeneration that encompasses home improvement schemes.
2. WORKING WITH COMMUNITIES: Drilling down of Public Health Measures to ensure the participation of formal community networks such as Community Development Associations, Land-lord
Associations, Residents’ Associations is very critical to ensure rooting of public enlightenment, cooperation with government directives. This is particularly important in low-income, high density areas.
3. DEVOLVEMENT TO LOCAL GOVERNMENTS: The state governments should devolve care to the local governments. Areas of possible devolvement include community preparedness training and mobilization, community based health officers and their care, PPE distribution centres, testing centres, mobile public service announcements and identification of existing facilities that could be converted to (micro-level) neighborhood based self-isolation centres.
4. FOOD AND OTHER PALLIATIVE ACTIONS: The Consumers Protection Council should have its task force on ground in order to monitor the prices of basic food items, to protect against inflation of prices.
For salaried workers in government and private sector, the provision of (at least) one-month salary advance would improve ability to provide food and other supplies for themselves, reducing the dependency and expectation for government provision.
Longer term interventions will be explored after further analysis of data.
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