Xenophobia, racism and stigma on the rise globally in lockdown – report

Setswetla informal settlement in Alexandra in Johannesburg, 31 March 2020. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

The report called for a more humane, equitable approach to the treatment of the urban poor in order to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Racism, xenophobia and a stigma against the poor, migrants and lower classes were on the rise during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent report by Yale University’s School of Medicine.

The report called for a more humane, equitable approach to the treatment of the urban poor in order to stop the spread of Covid-19.

It also warned of the “draconian” approach some countries were taking in response to the pandemic. These measures put vulnerable communities in informal settlements at even further risk.

The school noted that close to one billion people estimated to live in urban slums or informal settlements globally were highly susceptible to Covid-19 infection. This was because basic needs such as water, toilets, sewerage, drainage, waste collection and secure and adequate housing were already in short supply or non-existent.

Compounding the risk were space constraints, violence and over-crowding in slums and tenements.

These conditions make physical distancing and self-quarantine impractical, and the rapid spread of an infection highly likely. Pre-existing illnesses were also likely increase Covid-19 vulnerability.

“Any responses to Covid-19 that do not recognise these realities will further jeopardize the survival of large segments of the urban population globally,” the report said.

Democratic Alliance MPL and Gauteng shadow MEC for social development in Gauteng Refiloe Nt’sekhe said the party supported the call for government to feed all vulnerable people regardless of their immigration status.

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