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Cities and COVID-19 Contagion-Risk Hotspots

September 16, 2021


Residents of Dharavi Slum in Mumbai

Residents of the Dharavi slum in Mumbai

Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC)


Cities, particularly urban slums in emerging countries worldwide, face extreme challenges in halting the coronavirus pandemic.

With limited COVID-19 vaccine available in the developing world, prevention through containment and social distancing, along with frequent handwashing, often seem the only viable strategies against the virus. Yet it is harder for slum dwellers, who are often informal daily wage earners and account for large proportion of city populations, to practice these prevention strategies.

Within slums, overcrowding, lack of sanitary services, or shared access to such basic services as water, sanitation, waste collection, and so on, exacerbate the risk of contagion.

It is important to identify the most vulnerable people before pandemic strikes, so that support networks, government agencies, and local non-governmental organizations can help people survive. COVID-19 is expected to push an additional 88 million to 150 million people into extreme poverty. There is an urgent need for swift, significant, and substantial policy action.

This webinar's objective is to discuss the joint project's outcomes, and a host of benefits and results.

  • Last year, World Bank’s Global Practice of Urban, Resilience and Land (GPURL) developed a rapid-deployment tool to identify COVID-19 contagion risk hotspots. These are places where people are more likely to be exposed to the disease or to contract it. In this webinar, we will discuss:

    • How we designed the tool
    • Its usefulness during continued outbreaks of coronavirus
    • The ways the tool can promote faster recovery from the pandemic

    The analysis required three primary datasets: population, building heights, and location of key services. Since most publicly available, city-level data sources lack disaggregated data on slums, we sought to fill the data gap and to improve or validate maps of places that were COVID-19 hotspots.

    We partnered with Slum Dwellers International (SDI), local affiliates of SDI, and Cities Alliance to collect real-time, geospatial, qualitative data for slums in eight cities across Africa and South Asia: Accra, Bhubaneshwar, Freetown, Kisumu, Kampala, Mumbai, Nairobi and Pune. 

    Despite the unique challenges the pandemic posed in each of the cities, the collaboration delivered results. In last six months, SDI local affiliates have collected granular, real-time datasets on slums in eight cities. 

  • During the webinar, we will discuss our joint project's outcomes, starting with the following but stretching out into a host of other benefits and results that we will discuss during the event.

    • How we designed the tool, its usefulness during continued outbreaks of coronavirus, and its potential to support a resilient recovery in the long term
    • How the tool, and disaggregated, slum-level data, can support evidence-based decision-making at the city level
    • Ways in which the pandemic disproportionately harms the urban poor
    • What we can to do forge stronger partnerships with civil society organizations to support inclusive development in COVID-19-affected cities
  • Sameh Wahba

    Global Director, Urban, Disaster Risk Management, Resilience & Land Global Practice

    Opening Remarks & Introduction

    Maitreyi B. Das

    Manager, Urban, Disaster Risk Management, Resilience and Land Global Practice

    Chair & Concluding Remarks

    Joseph Muturi

    Global Chair of Slum Dwellers International (SDI)

    Co-chair & Concluding Remarks

    Sheela Patel

    Founder & Director, Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centre (SPARC), SDI India


    Jane Weru

    Executive Director & Founding Member, Akiba Mashinani Trust & Board Member of SDI


    Killion Nyambuga

    Slum Dwellers International, Kenya


    Smruti Jukur

    SPARC, India


    Swati Sachdeva

    Urban Specialist, World Bank


    David Satterthwaite

    Senior Fellow, IIED

    Presenter & Panelist

    Greg Munro

    Director, Cities Alliance


    Sarah Nandudu

    Vice Chairperson, NSDFU & Deputy Chair of the Board, SDI


    Rogier van den Berg

    WRI Acting Global Director


    Martha Chen

    Senior Advisor, WEIGO