Covid-19, an opportunity to rethink urban resilience
Photo by Gabe Pierce on Unsplash

We are in a time of changes and transition. If we all now assume that what never really changes is constant change, then this entails major transitions. Not only economic and ecological transitions, from sectors that we have come to recognise as obsolete but social transitions. These are transitions of coexistence, which are revolutionising how we relate to each other, how we communicate, and in short, how we use public space in our cities: the skin of our city.

Many point out that the challenges of managing the current situation of COVID-19 transcend the assignment of phases of containment, of pandemic waves and peaks, and that we are unfortunately at the beginning of what some are already beginning to call the new pandemic era.

While high- and middle-income countries with more effective health systems are struggling to detect and contain the effects of the COVID-19, it is right now when we are beginning to understand the challenge of addressing this emerging pandemic in low-income countries and informal settlements. Territories in these countries, most of which are unprepared to handle even the most modest disruptions in food, water and energy supplies, are now fully exposed to the stress that the COVID-19 pandemic is placing on public and private services for their citizens.

Women on water supply
Women constitute a disproportionate percentage of informal sector workers. They are the most affected by the crisis. Photo: CAD Productions

Informal settlements lack infrastructure and basic services and, because of this, it is very difficult to prevent the spread of the disease. For example, hand washing is extremely difficult when access to clean water is limited and water sources become contagious areas. Social distancing is almost impossible to implement in such communities because the population density is so high and the common public space is so small.  Self-quarantine is hardly an option for low-income families, most of whom are informal workers and depend on their daily income. Staying at home is not simply an option.

In this context, women, who constitute a disproportionate percentage of informal sector workers, are the most affected by the crisis. The vulnerability of particular groups, such as the elderly and children is also accentuated.

As a result, today, more than ever, there is a need to work on inclusive and sustainable management frameworks in urban areas, and it seems more appropriate than ever to strengthen the capacity of communities to be more resilient in the face of adversity.

Concepts that we were using as a solution to resolve some development objectives linked to urban management, such as inclusive and sustainable territorial planning, or the transversal strengthening of resilience, have become the essential cornerstones for managing not only the pandemic crisis but also the complex recovery phase that will follow and will mark the type of society that we want to propose for our coexistence and for our future generations.

Fernando Casado
Fernando Casado
Fernando is the founder and director of CAD bringing together 20 years’ experience working with international organizations in the development field. He is a PhD economist and journalist specialized in projects related to economic and sustainable development. @Fernando_Casado