One of the major concerns of the Covid19 pandemic is the emerging hotspots in slum areas of big cities. As the deadly virus is spreading at an alarming speed in the state of Maharashtra, it can spread very rapidly in the low-income, high density settlements having low disease immunity and inadequate medical facilities. These settlements form an integral and important part of the city’s economy and a breakout of the pandemic in these communities will have a cascading effect which can lead to its spread at all strata of society. Lack of granular data on slums hamper governments from systematic monitoring and tracking the spread of this virus and then fighting and mitigating this pandemic. It is now even more necessary that we have a good tracking mechanism in place when it comes to individual households in slums.
Shelter Associates (SA), an NGO based in Pune who actively works on Sanitation and Housing for the urban slums of Maharashtra, with a recent milestone achievement of facilitation of over 20,000 individual household toilets for the slum families; has invested in creating spatial data on slums of 7 cities of Maharashtra in the last 2 decades and made mapping of slum data a vital component of its work. SA has demonstrated how this data can become an excellent planning tool to effectively deliver essential services like water, sanitation, housing etc. Through the medium of GIS mapping, infrastructural mapping and individual household surveys, Shelter Associates has created a strong database of slum communities and families and has now proved to be a boon in facilitating various relief campaigns helping the vulnerable families during the Covid19 outbreak. The data is also shared with the various Municipal Corporations of Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Kolhapur, Thane, Navi-Mumbai and Panvel who can use our granular data as an excellent planning tool to effectively deliver essential services. In addition to that, the concerned Government authorities can identify the households with Corona positive patients and as an immediate step can create a buffer of families around that house who will need to be screened. “Through the data and slum maps generated by Shelter Associates, it has become very easy for us to identify and track the slum families at this crucial hour”, says Mr. Nilkanth Dhondiram Poman, Chief IT Officer, Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation.
As a direct relief, Shelter Associates plans and conducts community outreach through telephonic campaigns to create awareness within the slum communities in not only educating the people on Covid19 and its prevention, but also busting the various myths and misconceptions surrounding the virus. The callers are also made aware of Emergency helpline numbers where they can easily reach out for help. Moreover, through a comprehensive analysis of the slum data, Shelter Associates has identified vulnerable slum communities in Maharashtra and have extended support through the distribution of Hygiene kits and Essential Food Grains. With the support of external funders, SA has strategically distributed hygiene kits comprising sanitizer, face masks, soaps and phenyl to 750 slum families in Pune, 850 families in Kolhapur, 550 families in Panvel and 150 cleanliness workers and policemen in Thane. At the same time, SA distributed food grains to 430 families in Pune and 20 families in Miraj. For that, SA has identified and trained volunteers from the community who work tirelessly along with the SA team to provide relief to the communities. It is an ongoing effort and till date, over 11800 individuals are facilitated with the Hygiene items and Food grains in selected slums of Pune, Kolhapur, Thane, Panvel and Miraj, Maharashtra.
“Shelter Associates has been helping poor people like us even during this corona crisis. The materials such as masks, soaps, phenyl provided to us are very useful and essential for maintaining good health and hygiene as the disease will spread very quickly in the settlement”, says Meena Sontakke from Yadav nagar vasti, Kolhapur.
On the whole, spatial data is useful for organizations like governments, businesses, and humanitarian agencies to locate the slum households for the facilitation of services and welfare schemes and to enhance the ability of public and government authorities to plan, manage and develop the service system matrix.