School of Built Environment & Development Studies

Counter Coronavirus Measures Must Target Poor and Marginalised

Towards the end of 2019, the world has witnessed the outbreak of a new strain of virus that had not previously been identified in humans. The Novel coronavirus was detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan (Hubei province). The
Dr Hangwelani Hope Magidimisha-Chipungu, one of the 200 Young South Africans recognised by the Mail & Guardian.

Towards the end of 2019, the world has witnessed the outbreak of a new strain of virus that had not previously been identified in humans. The Novel coronavirus was detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan (Hubei province). The World Health Organisation swiftly declared a public health emergency of international concern at the end of January 2020, as infections spread rapidly within China. Since then an increasing number of cases have been confirmed outside of China, including South Africa. The situation is evolving rapidly. 

The fact that rapid urbanisation and increasing international travel render epidemic outbreaks a global and not simply a local phenomenon, imply that it is important for all countries to take necessary measures to counter this threat. The first line of defence against the pandemic is surveillance: monitoring human and animal populations to spot outbreaks and contain them quickly. The South African government has assured its citizens to not panic as they are prepared fight and contain the coronavirus outbreak.  Now that South Africa has confirmed at least 38 cases of coronavirus infection (at the time of writing ), we are at a crossroads: coronavirus has not yet reached (or at least we don’t know if it has reached) epidemic proportions in South Africa.

Despite governments efforts to fight and contain the coronavirus outbreak, significant gaps, challenges and unevenness exist with regards to pandemic preparedness. Progress toward preventing the spread of corona virus has been uneven, and many parts of the country have been unable to meet basic requirements for compliance. When epidemics or pandemics hit, they usually hit the poor first and worst. We have known this for a while. This history has exposed gaps related to the timely detection of disease, availability of basic care, tracing of contacts, quarantine and isolation procedures, and preparedness outside the health sector, including coordination and response mobilization. In a country with high inequality like South Africa, these gaps are especially evident in resource-limited settings of townships and informal settlements, and threaten to pose dire implications for what may happen during a coronavirus outbreak in these settings. In the light of this revelation, there is therefore an opportunity to pre-empt the worst of coronavirus effects through concerted action to reach those furthest behind. I therefore submit that coronavirus outbreak is also a Town Planning issue and planners can influence the trajectory of this virus.

Given the variable, the current strategy that SA is employing is not sufficient to contain the virus. The strategy indeed needs to be recalibrated. We must start moving beyond national systems and prioritise interventions in hard-to-reach areas. Many of these locations within south africa may be remote, with health facilities and other services beyond the reach of people in poverty. Urban informal settlements are hotspots for the spread of diseases, and so targeting these areas of extreme poverty through health interventions alongside provision of proper water and sanitation services and other forms of sustainable developments would offer a longer-term solution to preventing the spread of the outbreaks and at more reducing or prevent death. All of this points to a critical need to situate the response to the coronavirus within wider risk-informed development strategies, to ensure the inclusion of those furthest behind, who may otherwise face the worst effects of the pandemic in the months ahead.

Despite growing international and national attention, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) surveillance remains weakest in marginalised areas at greatest risk. Such areas are short of water and sanitation infrastructure and health facilities. They struggle for clean drinking water on a daily basis. Water to wash their hands on regular basis might seem to be a luxury they cannot afford. The underinvestment in preparedness in these communities reflects the painful choice facing poor and marginalised communities with high disease burdens. These weaknesses mean that in poor communities, isolated outbreaks are likely to go undetected for a longer time and, thus, to smoulder and spread. In such circumstances, we will all be doomed. Coronavirus does not discriminates.

Regardless of where a pandemic starts, once underway, the poor tend to bear the brunt. They have weaker health and poor infrastructure systems and limited capacity to handle surges in cases. These distributional inequalities are likely to play out within South Africa.  In facing coronavirus pandemic, people are advised to avoid public places like markets or public gathering, to maintain personal space and quarantine. Contrary to this intervention measure, the very nature of marginalized communities like informal settlement is a very high concentration of people or households in a small piece of land with very high interaction of people and domestic animals. These areas need to be paid attention to, lest they serve as ticking time bomb for us all.

Since poor populations face a higher spark risk, a greater chance that an outbreak will spread in these communities, and a higher likelihood of health and worse off mortality shocks, pandemic preparedness efforts must preferentially target these poor and marginalised communities whose livelihoods are already precarious. Without vigorous efforts to secure equitable access to basic services for everyone, we are doomed to face the worst pandemic ever seen in the history of this country. Coronavirus outbreak is also a Town Planning issue.

Dr Hangwelani Hope Magidimisha-Chipungu

SARChi Chair for Inclusive cities (NRF-SACN)

Academic leader for Planning and Housing at University of Kwazulu-Natal

magidimishah@ukzn.ac.za

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
Share on email
Ms Zandile Msimango

Masters student lands top Project Management Job

Masters student in Community Development Ms Zandile Msimango has landed a top position in Project Management at Ilitha Research and Management Consultants. She will be responsible for research, project planning and management for some of the company’s clients, enabling her to put her skills to good use and to lay the foundation to achieve her goals.

Professor Brian Kearney and Ms Michele Jacobs with some of the drawings and work from the UKZN architecture archives that feature in The Berea Style publication.

UKZN Architecture drawings and work feature in The Berea Style

Curator of the UKZN Architecture library archives Ms Michele Jacobs and Emeritus Professor in the architecture discipline Brian Kearney recently exhibited prints of original and measured drawings of a vast array of KwaZulu-Natal buildings done by UKZN students and other architects.

From left: Mr Juan Solis (UKZN), Mr Lawrence Ogunsanya (UKZN), winner Mr Siyabonga Khuzwayo and Mr Chris Mungle (Corobrik Sales Manager, eThekwini).

UKZN students win top architectural awards

Architecture student Mr Siyabonga Khuzwayo was named winner of the Corobrik Regional Architecture Award. He received R10 000 in prize-money, with Master’s student Mr Kireshen Chetty taking the second prize of R8 000, and Mr Mthokozisi Sibisi receiving R6 000 for third place. A further R6 000 was awarded to Mr Mbuso Msipho for the innovative use of clay masonry in his building design.

Participants at the Centre for Civil Society Training Day.

Activists Undergo Training through Centre for Civil Society

The Centre for Civil Society (CCS) within the School of Built Environment and Development Studies (BEDS) held a workshop for activists facilitated by
CCS Community Scholar Ms Mzamo Zondi and Director at Sensys Training Ms Nina Sen.