According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the transmission of COVID-19 is 1.09 times higher in urban areas and around 1.89 times higher in urban slums.
Slums are highly populated areas, with dismal infrastructure and scarce availability of resources. While the government advise maintaining ‘social distancing’ and remain in isolation as much as possible, it is unknot likely to be followed in slums due to lack of space and several other factors.
Slum dwellers are poor and their employment depends largely on daily wage, which further complicates the situation. A census conducted in 2011 revealed that around 66 million people across India live in slums, which accounts for almost 18 percent of the urban Indian population.
As this census was conducted more than a decade back, there has been a significant rise in population, and most likely, in the number of residents in urban slums. The environment in slums is detrimental to one’s mind and body, and while many are fortunate to belong to families with resources, slum dwellers find themselves in appalling and deplorable conditions.
- There is almost no availability of safe drinking water: While water is a basic resource, there is acute shortage of potable water in slums
- Hardly any awareness about personal hygiene: Most people residing in slums do not always have the benefits of literacy and this works against them in having access to knowledge on the importance of hygiene, both personal and.
- Awful living conditions: With almost no available resources, these people live in distressing conditions
- Meagre income on daily wages: Most men and women living in slums rely on daily wages, which they receive through menial works
- Lack of resources and health facilities: They do not have enough money to afford healthcare, even in case of an emergencies
- Food insecurity: Food being a means of basic livelihood is not available at all times, which leads to lack of nutrition
- Overpopulation: People in slums live in crammed spaces with several people sharing a tenement, making maintenance of social distancing impossible
It would be unfair and unrealistic to expect them to maintain social distancing as it is an impossible task. It is important to take all these factors into consideration before policies are formulated for dealing with COVID-19 in these areas. However, steps are being taken by both the Central and satte governments to make things like accessto potable water, hygiene and sanitation, availability of soap, to name a few.
In most slums at metro cities, like Kolkata and Mumbai, percentage of shared toilets are high, whereas in many slums of Delhi and Mumbai, there are no toilet facilities at all and here people defecate in open areas, further adding to the problem. Around 3-4 people live in one room in almost every house in a slum which reveals that there is no space to maintain “isolation”. All these factors clearly indicate that slum areas are at higher risk of transmitting COVID-19.