Social distancing being ignored in slums

Mahabub Alam

30 March, 2020 12:00 AM printer

People living in the densely populated slums in the capital are failing to maintain social distancing, increasing the risks of coronavirus spread.

With high population density, lack of awareness is also widely observed in the slums inhabited by the lower-income group. 

Although the movement of people has become limited outside their homes amid the surveillance by law enforcing agencies, the overcrowded slums often ignore the social distancing practice. 

The Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) said the virus has already begun to get ‘mass transmission’ in a limited scale. In this situation, people in the densely populated slums remain largely unprotected.

During a visit to Vasantek slum, the residents of the slum were seen gossiping in groups while many were watching television in tea stalls.

Majeda Begum, a dweller of the slum, said, “We have heard that a virus has come in our country. We are not worried because it will not infect us.”

Mizan Mia, another resident, said he was unaware about the symptoms of the virus and its prevention.

The same scenario was found at Chalantika Slum, Ilias Molla Slum and Karail Slum at Mirpur and Gulshan-Banani.

Surot Ali, a dweller of the slum, says: “How can we maintain social distance? We live in small shanties together. And now we cannot go out of the slum. The slum is full of people as there is no work.”

According to Local Government Division, there are 1,639 slums with 499,011 people under Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and 1,755 slums with 147,056 residents in Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC).

Dr Mohammad Mainul Islam, professor of Department of Population Sciences at the Dhaka University, says the slum dwellers are more vulnerable as the virus has started to spread at the community level.

“They will face a food crisis and they will not realise the gravity of the situation for lack of awareness.” He also suggested the Health Ministry and City Corporations take joint initiatives to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the slums.

Tazina Sarwar, chief social welfare and slum development officer of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC), said they arranged hand washing facilities in the slums to help the slum residents maintain hygiene practices.

Various programmes have been taken to raise awareness in the slums, she informed.

Anowar Hossain Bhuyian, a slum development officer of the DNCC, said they were directed by the city corporation to set up 10 basins in every slum to provide handwashing facilities.  He said they could not spray disinfectant in the slums as the vehicles could not enter for narrow lanes.