COVID-19: Community Resilience in Urban Informal Settlements

Around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated differences that already existed. Health outcomes and the economic impacts of resulting lockdowns have not been evenly distributed and inequalities have deepened. As the pandemic began, there were widespread concerns for the urban poor. This summary, published as part of the Research for Policy and Practice series of the Covid Collective initiative, highlights key messages from research focusing on community resilience in urban informal settlements, based on analysis of research in Bangladesh, Kenya, and Yemen. In Bangladesh, BIGD initiated an exploratory study to find out how slum dwellers understood and dealt with the COVID-19 situation. Using trained ethnographers, we recruited slum dwellers as peer researchers for data collection. Researchers identified widespread community-led initiatives in key areas such as sanitation that were later supported by government efforts. Overall, three messages stand out from the three cases: (1) urban residents are not passive recipients of political or economic directives. Residents’ responses vary widely and will determine the final outcomes; (2) residents’ responses are shaped by the pre-pandemic context, including civil society engagement, residents’ trust in government, and wider threats, including conflict; (3) where outcomes were more positive than expected, this was largely the result of self-help activities, amplified by government assistance and public recognition.

Authors: Collyer, Michael; Mitlin, Diana; Wilson, Robert; Shahaduz, Zaman
Type: Research Brief
Year: 2021