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UN-Habitat unveils $33.3m plan for vulnerable communities in Nigeria, others

By Chinedum Uwaegbulam. Property & Environment Editor
04 May 2020   |   4:13 am
A multi-million dollar initiative that will help most vulnerable in cities and communities in Nigeria and 19 other African countries, especially the one billion people living in slums and informal settlements globally to cope with COVID-19 pandemic

A multi-million dollar initiative that will help most vulnerable in cities and communities in Nigeria and 19 other African countries, especially the one billion people living in slums and informal settlements globally to cope with COVID-19 pandemic has been launched by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).
The world is living through an unprecedented crisis as COVID-19 continues to spread, with tens of thousands of lives lost and over 200 countries affected. In just a few months, the pandemic has transformed the way we live, work, travel and socialize. The world’s cities are generally reacting quickly to this urban humanitarian crisis and how they respond is critical to protect their population, halt the pandemic and set the scene for resilience and recovery

To address the crisis, UN-Habitat is launching an urgent COVID-19 Response Plan for 64 countries focusing on immediate action in poor and densely populated areas. This is supported by the COVID-19 Campaign to mobilize support among national, city and local governments and community leaders through its network of urban professionals, grassroots organizations and businesses.

Over 95 per cent of the world’s coronavirus cases are in urban areas across over 210 countries in nearly 1,500 cities.  People in informal settlements are particularly at risk as they live in overcrowded conditions, lack adequate housing and basic services such as water and sanitation and many are informal workers surviving from one day to the next.  This makes it extremely hard to implement measures to slow transmission such physical distancing, self-quarantine, handwashing or community-wide lockdowns.                       

The human settlements organisation is working with its partners on the ground including mayors, governors, transport and utility providers, women, youth and community organizations and NGOs to urgently deliver the $72 million Response Plan in Africa, the Arab States, Asia Pacific, and Latin American and the Caribbean.
This catalytic support will amplify the impact of ongoing initiatives by central and local governments, communities and other UN agencies. Funding requirements will be updated as the situation evolves and needs are further assessed.
Over 70 per cent of the support will be used to help informal settlements to improve affordable access to water and sanitation, raise awareness about COVID-19, and support initiatives to prevent people becoming homeless by providing temporary shelter or alternative income generating activities.  Ensuring safe transport and repurposing buildings to isolate those infected are other priority areas.
To ensure that urban responses, such as provision of water, food, housing, health services and livelihoods, are targeted to the most vulnerable and high risk areas, UN-Habitat will assist with data collection, mapping of existing and emerging hot spots and analysis working with its network of local and global partners. This will help evidence-based decision making by local governments and key stakeholders.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, the fastest urbanizing region in the world, a $33.3 million project has been launched. More than 60 per cent of the urban population live in informal settlements and are now exposed to the risk of COVID-19 as well as the pandemic’s social and economic impacts.
UN-Habitat’s immediate response in Africa prioritizes coordination of emergency preparedness and responses; technical advice and online tools for cities; local leaders and communities; direct programming in informal settlements to improve access to food and basic services including water; sanitation and hygiene and entrepreneurship for local solutions.

These actions will be complemented by public awareness-raising through targeted, accurate information in local languages. The recovery phase will focus on providing expert policy advice, knowledge sharing and urban recovery programmes to improve services and infrastructure in informal settlements and to sustain the gains made.
Under the project, UN-Habitat will support 20 countries in Africa, prioritizing the coordination of emergency preparedness and response, improving access to food and basic services including water, sanitation and hygiene, and promoting entrepreneurship. The countries are Angola, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
As the pandemic plunges the world’s economy into a global recession, UN-Habitat is focusing on policies and measures to mitigate the local social and economic impact of COVID-19 and is working with a coalition of global thought leaders and stakeholders in public and private spheres.
UN-Habitat has already provided seed funding of over USD 1.3 million for scaling up projects in 13 countries with community preparedness, outreach and hygiene support. The agency has also jointly launched with United Cities and Local Governments and Metropolis, a #BeyondTheOutbreak virtual live learning series for mayors and local leaders to share urban solutions. 

“The UN-Habitat team is working night and day to help city and community leaders on the frontline of this pandemic to reduce the risks in informal settlements and help the most vulnerable. 
“With our extensive network of partners as well as our in-house experts, UN-Habitat is working closely with cities and communities to find innovative and targeted solutions to provide water and sanitation, safe transport and to mitigate the economic impact on the urban poor,” said UN-Habitat’s Executive Director, Maimunah Mohd Sharif.

“We want to help build up the resilience of our community partners to respond to specific and varied challenges over the coming months and beyond,” she said.

At the global level, UN-Habitat shares good practice and solutions and identifies successful policy, legal measures and governance approaches to respond to current needs and long term resilience.
To amplify the impact and broaden the reach of the Response Plan, UN-Habitat is launching a COVID-19 Campaign ‘Take action with us in cities and communities’ which calls on civil society organizations, community groups, professional, academic and research institutions, businesses and local authorities to commit online to acting in solidarity to fight the pandemic in cities and helping the most vulnerable communities.

The campaign will provide a central place to network and share solutions, initiatives, good practice, lessons and stories from partners and strengthen integrated action to improve the resilience of cities and communities.
The Response Plan and the COVID-19 Campaign provide a roadmap and rallying point for the combined commitment of UN-Habitat and its network of urban actors to support cities’ proactive responses to protect their populations, halt the pandemic and work towards recovery and resilience.

UN-Habitat is responding to a growing volume of requests from both national and local governments to help them prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Building on more than 40 years of urban experience, much of it in humanitarian situations, we are focusing on the city-level response to the crisis. We are leveraging our extensive network of partners on the ground, bringing together mayors, governors, transport and utilities providers, urban NGOs, women’s and youth groups, and slum-dweller community organizations. And we will bring our catalytic support to help central and local governments, communities and UN agencies to make their work more impactful.

As a centre of excellence on urban issues with a portfolio in more than 60 countries, UN-Habitat’s expertise covers a wide range of areas including housing, participatory slum upgrading, youth and gender initiatives, transport, water and sanitation, research and innovation. We will bring the power of these experts to the service of cities as they meet their specific and varied challenges over the coming months and beyond.

UN-Habitat has moved ahead quickly with implementing emergency projects and has mobilized over USD 1 million of its own internal funds to provide seed funding for scaling up in 13 countries with community preparedness, outreach and hygiene support in addition to the realignment of some projects at the country level for the immediate emergency response.

UN-Habitat is working closely within the United Nations system at the country, regional and global levels in its response to the pandemic and is supporting the three tracks outlined in the UN Secretary-General’s report: Shared Responsibility, Global Solidarity: Responding to the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19.