Habitat for Humanity's Coronavirus Responses

Having access to housing, basic sanitation and clean water are simple and basic needs. The outbreak of Coronavirus has been a critical reminder of their utmost importance and of the injustice in access to those needs in the world around us.  

Throughout this global pandemic, governments are relying on self-isolating and social distances policies to slow the spread of the virus. But for or the 1.8 billion people around the world who are homeless or live in inadequate shelter, “staying at home” is simply not possible. In fact, living conditions in poor or inadequate housing actually create a higher risk of infection whether from overcrowding or lack of proper sanitation that makes hand-washing difficult.

According to the United Nations Under Secretary General and Executive Director of UN-Habitat, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, it is now clear that “housing is both prevention and cure – and a matter of life and death – in the face of Coronavirus”.

Habitat for Humanity has been delivering vital housing and sanitation programmes globally for over 40 years. These programmes are now keeping communities around the world safe while saving countless lives. As the deadly threat of Coronavirus spreads into developing countries, our teams on the ground are designing and implementing new programmes to rapidly protect the most vulnerable and provide lifesaving support to those who need it most.

All of these urgent measures and more are desperately needed and demonstrate the way in which housing is inherently connected to our collective public health.

You can help us make sure that everyone has a chance for a brighter future. With your support, Habitat will continue to be a catalyst for thriving communities.

Make a donation

Habitat for Humanity's response in Kenya

The spread of Coronavirus in Kenya

Kenya, especially Nairobi, is the entry point to East Africa where most goods and people travel through to get to the rest of the continent. As a strategic location and a key regional and commercial hub, the risk of a widespread Coronavirus outbreak in the country is extremely high.  

At the same time, there are approximately 2.5 million slum dwellers in about 200 settlements in Nairobi representing 60% of the city’s population and occupying just 6% of the land. Kibera, the biggest slum in Africa (and one of the biggest in the world) has a population of 250,000 people. An average shack in Kibera often houses up to 8 or more with many sleeping on the floor. To make matters worse, in most areas there are no toilet facilities, with approximately one latrine for every 50 shacks. Proper sanitation and social distancing measures are near impossible to maintain. 

The government of Kenya has formed a National Emergency and Response Committee (NERC) to guide preparedness, early detection and response for Coronavirus in Kenya. To date the government has closed all education institutions and worship centres, banned international flights, restricted movements on borders, urged organisations to allow their employees to work from home and citizens to use mobile money instead of cash.

To date, 1,029 cases and 50 deaths have been recorded in the country.

How Habitat is helping to slow the spread of Coronavirus

Targeted text campaign

Many Kenyan people don’t have internet on their mobile phones and therefore cannot access accurate information regarding coronavirus prevention measures. The Ministry of Health in Kenya has been sending out text messages to maintain distance and proper hygiene. However, because the information is only translated in English and Swahili languages, it overlooks a high number of local illiterate population. Communities who are either illiterate or don’t understand Swahili or English may not understand the information shared or appreciate the severity of the situation. For this reason, Habitat for Humanity has set up a targeted text message campaign, using an sms chatbot designed to engage and train hard to reach audiences on basic phones and smartphones. The text campaign has been translated into indigenous languages and includes: information on Coronavirus, when and how to seek medical advice, DIY soap and sanitizer recipes, and the importance of staying socially connected while physically distancing.  Through this campaign we will be reaching over 100,00 people primarily in informal settlements in Homabay, Laikipia, Nairobi and Kisumu Counties.

Hygiene promotion and awareness

Habitat for Humanity is setting up 100 portable hand-washing stations, filled with water and liquid soap which is dispensed through a tap, in public locations in Homabay and Laikipia Counties. We are working in partnership with community-based organizations and the Ministry of Social Services, to ensure maintenance of the facilities and continued practice of hand-washing.  We are distributing hygiene kits to 100,000 targeted slum residents, each containing face masks, liquid soap (500ml) and hand sanitizers (500ml).

To ensure that the families that have been hit hardest are being supported, we have started providing small cash grants and vital resources to 200 poor and vulnerable households that we have identified in a recent baseline survey. These include child headed households, elderly people taking care of orphans and vulnerable children, widows infected by HIV/Aids, without a stable income and taking care of children, and the disabled. Habitat for Humanity in Kenya will keep supporting these families for the next two years.

Habitat for Humanity's response in Ethiopia

The spread of Coronavirus in Ethiopia

According to the Inform Global Risk Index, Ethiopia is considered a “Very High Risk” country, with three times higher exposure to epidemics such as Coronavirus and unable to cope with the added stress of a pandemic. Almost 80% of urban dwellers reside in highly congested slum areas where 35% of them living in a single room and 90% don’t have access to sanitation facilities.  With widespread overcrowding and lack of proper sanitation Coronavirus, if it takes hold, could spread dramatically.

To date Ethiopia has closed schools, suspended sporting events, cancelled flights to more than 80 destinations and cancelled public gatherings. Federal Health Authorities are tightening up their response including surveillance, diagnosis, infection prevention and control. They have implemented an epidemic response coordination sharing public health education to swiftly detect cases and limit widespread infections.

To date, 398 cases and 5 deaths have been recorded in the country.

How Habitat is helping to slow the spread of Coronavirus

Habitat for Humanity is working to improve the sanitation and hygiene conditions of vulnerable groups living in highly congested slum areas, focusing on four big cities: Addis Ababa, Bahir Dar, Kombolcha/Dessie and Shashemene. Our response is designed for an initial 6 month period supporting 212,604 of the cities’ most vulnerable people.

Delivery of vital resources and awareness promotion

Habitat for Humanity have been setting up 750 hand-washing drums with sitting tables and detergent liquid soap dispenser. We have also organised socially distanced demonstration of proper hand washing techniques. Our teams on the ground have also been distributing detergents including soap bars, alcohol-based sanitizers and paper towels.

To increase hygiene awareness in the harder to reach areas we have recorded messages on local radio programmes with crucial information on Coronavirus transmission, prevention and community best practices (in the local languages). Our Coronavirus communication material is also distributed in our targeted locations through 7500 posters and flyers and a text message campaign sending daily text alerts. 

Financial and psycho-social support

To ensure that the families that have been hit hardest are being supported, Habitat for Humanity in Ethiopia has started providing small cash grants and vital resources to 2500 vulnerable households that we have previously identified. These include elderly people and the disabled. 

We have also hired physicians to train volunteers in order to provide psycho-social support where needed in the targeted communities.

Distribution of sanitary kits and food items

Since June, Habitat for Humanity Ethiopia has started providing sanitary kits and food items to vulnerable families who are severely impacted by the spread of the virus in Lideta Sub City, Addis Ababa.

The sanitary kits include: 2000 bottle liquid soap, 2000 soap bars and 2000 sanitizers. To enhance families’ resilience, we are also distributing 6000Kg of flour (30 kg per family) and 3,000 liters of edible oil (15 liters per family). 20 volunteers have also been trained to assist in the distribution of items and in conveying key messages to families. 

‘’I stay at home. My husband’s income is not enough for our livelihood. We face big challenges as we cannot go out and win our daily bread. We do not have enough soap, sanitizers, and food. I want to thank Habitat Ethiopia for assisting us to protect ourselves from Coronavirus, otherwise it would be difficult for us”.

Zeritu Sisay is one of family members we supported. She has two children and her husband is daily labourer, earning a very low income. Zeritu used to wash clothes for other families to bring additional income but had to leave her job because of the Coronavirus restrictions.

Habitat for Humanity's response in India

The spread of Coronavirus in India

It is estimated that in Dharavi Slum of Maharashtra state,  800,000 people live in a one-square-mile stretch, boxed in between thundering train tracks and a polluted river separating it from the skyscrapers of Mumbai’s financial district. More than 200 Coronavirus cases have already been confirmed in the area which highlights the challenge that the country is facing.

The risk of widespread Coronavirus infection in India is high, as there is a staggering need for homes and proper sanitation in the country. According to the UN, more than half of the population in the country are forced to go to the toilet in the open. In the slum areas, toilet blocks do exist, but they are often dirty, poorly maintained and putting families at a constant high risk of Coronavirus and other infectious diseases.

The Government has enforced a nationwide lockdown affecting the entire 1.3 billion population of India, which was extended at least until May 31st.

To date 333,255 cases and 9,524 deaths have been recorded in the country.

How Habitat is helping to slow the spread of Coronavirus

Habitat for Humanity India is working in partnership with the Government of Maharashtra to fight Coronavirus. We are also working with 13 other administrations and government agencies at a grassroot level, focusing our support in the states of Delhi, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Karnataka and Rajasthan.

Delivery of vital resources and awareness promotion

Habitat for Humanity India have been their focusing their Coronavirus response on raising awareness of importance of hygiene and sanitation through our Water, Sanitation and Hygiene programme. As the country implements unprecedented measures, we are supporting families and individuals by providing them with family essentials kits and hygiene kits.

To date we have distributed 140,360 family and hygiene kits while we have served and reached 774,879 people through our awareness promotion activities. Our teams on the ground have been organising awareness sessions at a grassroot level to share accurate information and help people understand how to protect themselves, their families and others. We have also been training community workers to help with the distribution of hygiene kits and to further promote the use of soap/sanitizers/floor disinfectants to help keep hands and surroundings clean.

Habitat for Humanity's response in Indonesia

The spread of Coronavirus in Indonesia

On May 21, Indonesia reported its biggest daily jump in coronavirus cases, bringing the total confirmed number to 20,162 in the world’s fourth most populous country. Indonesia now has the highest death rate of any country in south-east Asia. Instead of nationwide lockdown the government has approved large-scale social restrictions including closing public places, restricting public transport, and limiting travel to and from the restricted regions.

To date 1,278 deaths have been recorded in the country.

How Habitat is helping to slow the spread of Coronavirus

Providing temporary shelter to hospital staff

As the country continues to struggle to flatten the Coronavirus transmission curve, medical workers on the frontline are facing enormous challenges, with dozens of doctors and nurses across the country succumbing to the virus. Naturally being at a higher risk than anybody of contracting the virus, these frontline workers do not want to return to their homes for fear of infecting their family.

We recognize the need to help those on the frontline in the battle against the virus by providing a decent place for them to sleep and reduce the risk of infection for their family members and housemates. That’s why we’ve launched an initiative to provide temporary quarters in hotels for Indonesian medical workers during the Coronavirus pandemic.  

Through this initiative Habitat for Humanity aims to contribute to the well-being of those on the frontline and eventually increase the overall capability of Indonesia in treating Coronavirus.

Habitat for Humanity's response in Romania

The spread of Coronavirus in Romania

Coronavirus is spreading fast in Romania and the country has been on nationwide lockdown as of March 24, with schools closed and flights suspended.

To date 17,585 cases and 1,159 deaths have been recorded in the country.

How Habitat is helping to slow the spread of Coronavirus

Building an Emergency Medical Centre

In a pandemic, rapid medical response together with a strong health system are prerequisites for successful interventions. Habitat for Humanity Romania, in partnership with the Moinesti Ambulance Center are currently building an Emergency Center, which will serve over 65,000 people from 11 communities in Romania.  Upon completion, the Center will be handed over to the Ministry of Health and will be functional during the pandemic and afterwards.

Undertaking vital repairs and improvements

An estimated 52% of Romanians live in overcrowded conditions, while urgent repairs are needed on 21.5% of the country’s houses. In the Vaideeni slum, one of the poorest communities in the country, the risk of a Coronavirus outbreak is significantly high. While following the appropriate prevention and social distancing measures, we are working on urgent home repairs for 10 families in the slum. The families are living in overcrowded conditions, with no running water at their homes. The repairs will improve their sanitation and hygiene practices and allow them to self-isolate safely.

Our collective action can save lives.

Support our efforts to slow the spread of Coronavirus and protect the most vulnerable around the world today: