Weekly Urban News Update
May 29, 2020
In This Update: 
Kenya Offers Free COVID-19 Testing in Slums, But Residents Fear Stigma of Testing Positive
Local Initiatives in Dar es Salaam Are Key to Helping Urban Poor Cope with COVID-19
Buenos Aires Cordoned Off City Slum with High COVID-19 Rate
Slum Residents Are Not Getting the Help They Need Facing COVID-19
An Avalanche of Evictions May Face America's Renters
Hong Kong, Global City between East and West, Struggles to Maintain Identity
In the News And Around the Web
Kenya Offers Free Testing in Slums, But Residents Fear Stigma of Testing Positive
Kenya is offering free, voluntary public testing in Nairobi slums, but the stigma of testing positive has made residents reluctant to be tested. One resident of the informal settlement Kibera explains that many employers now require proof of testing for job applicants: "Nowadays when you look for work, they ask to see your results first...If your results come back negative, you are fine, but without results, it's a bit difficult to get employed." The new requirement is significant: the lockdown measures that put Kibera's casual laborers, cleaners, market sellers, and motorbike taxi drivers out of work means more are searching for jobs. Kenya has recorded 1,358 cases and 52 deaths so far, but the country's health authorities anticipate the number will not peak until September.

Read more here.
Local Initiatives in Dar es Salaam Are Key to Helping Urban Poor Cope with COVID-19
Priscila Izar, Albert Nyiti, Elinorata Mbuya and Daniel Mbisso at Dar es Salaam City Lab write that local initiatives and innovative solutions are critical to help urban poor cope with COVID-19 in Dar es Salaam. In Tanzania, the situation is urgent: 70% of the population lives in unplanned settlements and 50% of the population is low income earners. The authors say that access to clean water, adequate shelter, food security, and context-based information must accompany social isolation measures to prevent rapid community transmission. T hey point to Sao Paolo, Brazil as evidence that innovative, community-based initiatives can help address these challenges. In Brazil's favelas, communities have organized quarantines, distributed food baskets, and formed financial solidarity networks. 

Read more here.
Buenos Aires Cordons Off Informal Settlement With High COVID-19 Rates
The city of Buenos Aires has erected police barriers around the Villa Azul slum to prevent the 4,000 residents from leaving after recording a high transmission rate in the area. On Wednesday,  174 out of 301 coronavirus tests in the area returned positive. Residents of Villa Azul now depend on the army to deliver essential items. Officials say that  if residents could move freely, the virus would quickly transmit to other parts of the city, but others have criticized the policy. One junior minister commented : "It looks like we are creating ghettoes for poor people." The mayor of Quilmes, the district that houses Villa Azul, disagreed, asserting: "If this had happened in a gated community, we would have isolated it as well." 

Read more here.
Slum Residents Are Not Getting the Help They Need Facing COVID-19
According to urban experts Robert Muggah and Richard Florida, research shows that despite the potential of megacity slums to rapidly spread coronavirus, many of the one billion people who live there are not getting the help they need. In slums, insecure property rights, low-quality housing, limited basic services, and poor sanitation can exacerbate virus transmission and make it difficult to follow mitigation measures such as social distancing and hand washing. Furthermore, strict lockdowns and aggressive police enforcement can compound the lack of basic services and open the way for criminal groups step in consolidate their authority by providing food and other forms of social support. 

Read more here.
An Avalanche of Evictions Faces America's Renters
An avalanche of evictions may face renters across the United States over the next few months. The economic fallout from COVID-19 has left many tenants unable to pay rent, especially those with little savings and who work in industries where job losses were severely hit. Temporary government assistance and eviction holds have helped, but over half of U.S. states seek to reinstate evictions soon. In 2016, when the unemployment rate was 4.7%, approximately 3.7 million eviction cases were filed. Now, with the current unemployment rate at 14.7%, sociologist and Principal Investigator at The Eviction Lab Matthew Desmond observes: "I don't see how we wouldn't have a wave of evictions." 

Read more here.
Hong Kong, Global City Between East and West, Struggles to Maintain Identity
Protests broke out in Hong Kong this past week over proposed national security legislation that could effectively end the city's autonomy from China. Hannah Beech at the New York Times explains that for many residents, the conflict with mainland China strikes "at the very notion of what it means to be from Hong Kong," which is considered one of the world's most prosperous cities, situated between "East and West, rice and bread, liberal and authoritarian." But, the new legislation threatens the city's civil liberties and core values like freedom of speech and an independent judiciary. One resident explained: "We used to say that Hong Kong was lucky to be between East and West. Now some people say, 'Its maybe cursed.'"

Read more here.
In The News and Around the Web
  • Protests in Minneapolis: Protests  broke out in Minneapolis this week over the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died in police custody on Monday.
  • Coronavirus Deaths in the U.S. Top 100,000:  The United States has recorded over 100,000 coronavirus-related deaths.
  • State Department Proposes New Pandemic Response Initiative: The U.S. State Department proposed a new global health security initiative to consolidate international preparedness.
  • Urban Density Is Not to Blame for Coronavirus Pandemic The association between urban density and contagion is dubious, write Scott Wiener and Anthony Iton at The Atlantic.
An anti-government protest in Hong Kong on Sunday.
 (Lam Yik Fei/The New York Times)
The ongoing COVID 19 crisis underscores the vital importance of livable cities and decent living conditions globally. The mobility of diseases within and between urban centers adn across borders is sadly demonstrated by the current pandemic. Now more than ever, we need your financial support and your voice to bring about change. Decent living conditions for one billion people worldwide is a fundamental building block of future resilience and pandemic preparedness.

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