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Decent Shelter Is A Bridge Between Lives And Livelihoods During COVID-19

By Rajan Samuel On 21 May 2020
Decent Shelter Is A Bridge Between Lives And Livelihoods During COVID-19

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the countrywide lockdown has disrupted the lives of all sections of the population on an unprecedented scale. However, low income households and vulnerable communities both in rural and urban regions are at a greater risk as they are not being able to maintain social distancing owning to cramped houses in which they dwell. Families are facing health and an economic crisis. Employers are cutting back hours and laying off workers by the thousands. In times like these, housing stability and livelihood is critical especially for the most vulnerable - women, elderly, children, differently abled, migrant workers, informal settlement dwellers, adivasi families and others.


The formulation of an effective disaster response strategy will help these vulnerable communities evade the spiral of debt, hunger and poverty. Housing will act as a bridge to ensure security to these families and provide sustainable livelihood opportunities. 


Deploying the pathways to permanence (P2P) framework for COVID-19 risk mitigation

In order to mitigate the risks arising out of COVID-19, it is essential to deploy the Pathways to Permanence (P2P) framework. At Habitat for Humanity, the Pathways to Permanence framework refers to placing the families affected by a disaster or a crisis on a path to durable, permanent and sustainable disaster resilient shelter solutions. 


Phase 1 of the framework comprises the ‘prevention’ phase to prevent the community transmission of COVID-19 and ensuring sustained provision of food and hygiene items. Phase II of the P2P framework focuses on ‘protection’ - creating a safety net for the vulnerable communities. Building temporary human settlements, providing access to transitional shelters forms a key part of this phase. Migrant workers do not have documents like ration cards in states where they work. This makes them ineligible for claiming food benefits rolled out by the concerned state governments. It is important to mainstream migrant workers to make them eligible for key government subsidies. Vulnerable communities with low or moderate incomes should also be provided with conditional cash transfers. 


Phase III of the P2P framework deals with ‘recovery and reconstruction’. It puts emphasis on building permanent housing solutions, slum upgradation, land tenure and other solutions focused on community empowerment, financial inclusion and community based disaster risk mitigation. 


A decent home plays a key role in becoming a frontline defense system against COVID-19. The Irulas, one of the most primitive and marginalized tribes in India, bear testimony to this fact. Habitat for Humanity in partnership with the district administrations of Cuddalore, Thiruvallur, Kanchipuram and Villupuram has provided Irula families in Tamil Nadu with a sustainable housing infrastructure. “My parents lived in a damp, dark, dingy hut for generations but I have witnessed firsthand the transformation into a brick and mortar home with electricity. With the stability of this home, I can pursue my education,” says Vidhya a 13 year old student from Keelalinjipattu (Tamil Nadu) who dreams of being a nurse. 


Habitat for Humanity has been a catalyst for such families across India enabling them to have a home of their own. Housing plays a critical role in improving health, education, financial stability and the viability of thriving communities and is key to protecting lives and securing livelihoods. 


The message from our Government, medical experts is clear - Stay at home, for the health of your family and community. Without a secure place to call home, it’s extremely difficult to self-isolate, quarantine or regularly wash your hands. We applaud the efforts taken by our government to curb the spread of COVID-19 and call on all governments at all levels - district, state and national - to support access to safe, adequate and affordable housing in their response to COVID-19. 

About the Author:

Rajan Samuel, Managing Director, Habitat for Humanity India

Rajan Samuel has over 30 years of experience in microfinance, housing microfinance and social development. He has held various roles in the past in  independent consulting and senior level positions with Opportunity International, World Bank, Khula Finance, DFID, IFAD, CARE, World Vision, DANIDA and others.
Having worked in over 25 countries in Asia, Central Asia, Africa and the Caucasus, Rajan has been instrumental in establishing 15 independent Microfinance institutions in 10 countries including rural banks, cooperatives and Credit Unions and Non-Banking Finance Companies. Before joining Habitat for Humanity India, he was the Housing Finance Manager with Habitat’s Asia-Pacific office. He holds a degree in commerce and administration.

As the Managing Director of Habitat for Humanity India, Rajan spearheads Habitat’s vision to build a world where everyone has a decent place to live. Through his leadership, Habitat India inspires partners in government, the private sector and civil society to volunteer, donate, invest and advocate for decent, affordable housing, for access to clean water and for better hygiene and sanitation practices.

Rajan has been instrumental in establishing a Sensitise to Sanitise Coalition with an aim to eliminate open defecation. Through Rajan’s able leadership, Habitat for Humanity India serves as a voice for people in need of decent housing.
Tag : COVID19

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