In the aftermath of Covid, Lagos slum dwellers are crying out to the State government for more intervention in social amenities to upgrade their slum lives.
The slum dwellers who were part of a research study carried out by the Lagos Urban Studies Group (LUSG), University of Lagos in partnership with the Nigerian Slum/Informal Settlement Federation (NSISF) did not hide their depressing feelings when they spoke with Healthstyleplus in Lagos.
The Participants were drawn from two large Lagos slum communities of Ajegunle, Ikorodu in Kosofe Local Government Area of Lagos East Senatorial District and Irede in Amuwo Local Council Development Area in Apapa Lagos Central Senatorial District.
To these men and women, the slums came about as a result of the failure of the state government to plan for their communities and the continued neglect of the people in spite of their economic value to the growth of the state.
1 Out of 4 families lost incomes, Cannot feed Children Due to covid
The occasion was the media round table and unveiling of the outcome of the research study titled: “Giving Voices To Slum Dwellers: Creating Digital Platform for Community Self-Reporting Amid Covid-19- A Policy Brief” carried out by SLUG/NSISF and Shantytown Empowerment Foundation (SHEF)
According to Dr Peter Elias, Principal Investigator of the research and Senior Lecturer in Geography, at the University of Lagos, “It became necessary to amplify our findings through the documented Policy Brief to government as a way of bringing intervention to the residents of these communities”.
Elias noted that the outcome of the study reveals most of the Lagos slum dwellers are vulnerable to pandemics due to their peculiar deplorable situations.
According to Elias, most of the 740 slum dwellers in the Kosofe Local Government Area that were studied, were self-employed and of low incomes.
In Ajegunle Ikorodu community a total of 346 Respondents took part; In Idiaraba there were 174 Respondents while in Mosafejo, a total of 220 people took part in the survey.
From the findings on the occupation of the respondents in the survey, the majority of the slum dwellers are self-employed that is, 48.8%. Those who trade are 26.3%; those who work in private companies, 9.4% and those who are fishermen, 5.8%; all of which were most affected professions during the lockdown”, the survey recorded.
According to Dr Elias, many of the Lagos slum dwellers are also poor, and do not visit government hospitals; 60% of them rely on drug stores and only 24.5% use Primary Health centres.
This, the investigators observed is inimical to the well-being of the general population who are very important to the state’s economic growth and improved health indices of the
Some of the slum dwellers summed up their experiences as “very unpalatable and unacceptable” and wish government intervenes with social welfare programmes.
IREDE IS SURROUNDED BY WATER, NONE TO DRINK
“My community Irede, is surrounded by water. Residents can only access other communities through water, but we dwellers do not have potable water to drink. No one even has a borehole in the whole community.
“If you have a well in your compound, everybody worships you and no one dares to insult your children because people would like to gain access to your well for water.
“Water from the wells dug in the community is coloured and dirty.
Yet people still struggle to get this dirty water and look for how to make it clean.
“Residents of Irede depend mostly on sachet water for drinking and well water for their daily chores. The period of the covid-19 lockdown in 2020, brought out the worst in our situation with the availability of well water and sachet water becoming so scarce and nearly out of reach.
“A bucket of water was sold for between N20 and N50 during covid-19 lockdown. A sachet of water was sold for N50 as against the previous N10. With such an outrageous cost of sachet water, many families could not afford to buy sachet water to drink” said Salami
” There was no money due to lockdown of small scale businesses and many families like mine with three children, had to resort to rationing drinking water as well as water for handwashing and sanitation”.
This was the account of Emmanuel Salami, a resident of Irede community to Healthstyleplus
Salami’s depressing account of the pallor state of Irede, calls for urgent intervention in providing portable water to encourage residents of the community to embrace Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and reduce the spread of waterborne diseases and other epidemics.
Aside from the issue of lack of potable water, Irede also lacks basic social amenities like a health centre.
According to Salami, “pregnant women who fall into Labour in the night are on their own because access to a boat is almost impossible as the husband would have to run around looking for who could do the journey at such wee hour. Someone gave birth in the boat recently. Yet we are not far from Apapa Local Government which we see just some stone’s throw away. In my community, we feel left behind. When I hear people say they have boreholes in their community we feel jealous because we have never seen such at Irede.
“Irede means, good has come, but at our own Irede Community, good is yet to come or be seen coming from Lagos State government”, Salami lamented to our Correspondent.
Rasheed Shittu, a member of the ShantyTown Empowerment Foundation (SHEF) also spoke about the expectations of the Lagos slum dwellers, “Our expectation is to have our voices reach the government.
“We want the government to understand that it doesn’t have to take the people away from the slums rather, take the slum away from the people through planned social welfare interventions that would impact the lives of those in the communities”, said Shittu.
Poor Sanitation and Hygiene Accentuate Ajegunle Slums
Mrs. Oshobe a slum dweller activist with NSISF spoke on how Politicians fail in their promises after campaigns and elections to help improve the poor sanitation and hygiene which accentuate Ajegunle and other slums.
Ajegunle community has some of the tributaries of the Ogun River in the community and during the covid lockdown, the people suffered from blocked drainages.
The residents dumped their solid wastes to block the canal that empties used water into the river.
“The Ajegunle and Irede slums belong to both Lagos East and Central Senatorial Districts respectively and it is sad that representatives of these communities only remember to go to the people every four years to lie and promise everything but nothing always comes out” Mrs Oshobe lamented.
According to Oshobe, “In my area, we did not experience anything like covid though, everyone knows and is aware of the other normal diseases people suffer from, like fever, malaria, and typhoid, and how to take care of themselves with local herbs or buying drugs from chemists.
“But then the major problem we faced at lockdown was not having a doctor and sufficient drugs in the only nearby health centre during the lockdown to attend to the cases of fever, malaria, and typhoid.
“No doctors came around to attend to us except some nurses who came on shifts. Soon after the study group’s visit to the community, our pressing challenges were amplified in the media.
The Lagos State government responded by sending a doctor to the health centre. The doctor now comes twice a week”, said Oshobe.
She equally lamented how hunger dealt with lots of families with young children during the covid period.
“With the lockdown and with no hope on how to get food, we began to record a number of cases where children were going to other peoples’ pots to steal.
“Children reportedly carried away pots of food from neighbours’ kitchens and when they finish eating the food, the children will return the empty pots to the kitchen of the owner.
” You know, these children were not going to school due to covid-19. So what we had to deal with, was more of ‘hunger-19’, Oshobe recalled.
For Oso Oluwatosin, one of the research participants, “Apart from the scarcity of potable water, the slum dwellers’ hygiene level is quite pathetic.
“Though some of the households have flushable toilets, pits, and so on, with no ready water, flushing wastes in the toilets was not part of the people’s hygiene”, noted Oso.
Oso explained that in the period of the lockdown, the effect of climate change became noticeable in the slums with noticeable heat among the people especially children falling sick.
“There were blocked drainages and clogged canals which caused flooding when the rains came down.
“The clogged canal also bred so many mosquitoes and many of the residents became sick of malaria and other diseases.
Since Health centres were not easily accessible due to the lockdown, the slum dwellers resorted to self-help and self-medication.
Oso also told Healthstyleplus that she observed in the course of the fieldwork, that some of the communities like Irede have no health centres and pregnant women travel for at least 30 minutes on the water to deliver their babies.
She advised that Government needs to immediately drill boreholes as a short-term intervention. While in the long run, linking the slums to the state water system would be the lasting solution to reducing poor sanitation and hygiene among these Lagos slum dwellers.
According to Oso, “Once there is potable water 70% of the challenges most of the Lagos slums dwellers are facing solved. She noted that people won’t have to spend so much of their meagre resources and income on purchasing water and there won’t be a need for micro-managing water as well, the researchers recommend.
A typical water point at Ajegunle and Irede
Speaking on the impact of SLUG on the communities, Professor Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndissika, Co-Investigator in the study. told our Correspondent that the researchers facilitated the provision of food donated by individuals and groups,
Likewise, as soon as the media attention focused on the deplorable state of the slums under study, the government took some actions.
According to Ogwezzy-Ndissika, a mass communication teacher at the University of Lagos, “What we did was to simply allow the Respondents to tell their stories in their own ways using digital tools which we trained them on.
The trained respondents became community reporters who went around to speak to others, gather their own stories, and self-report on what is going on in their communities.
Another slum dweller, Susan from Mosafejo, Kosofe Local Governments also shared her covid-19 lockdown experience.
“I am a fashion designer with two kids and during the lockdown period, I had to go and live with my parents as there were no one sewing clothes because there were no parties.
“My mother a teacher did not go to work and my father who was sick became an issue as there was no money to spend to keep the family.
“I tell you, there was so much hunger and my family had to reach out to beg for food”, Susan lamented.
During the covid lockdown the State Governor, Babajide Sanwoolu, set up a committee to distribute food palliatives all over the city, but respondents in the study complained that the government palliatives never got to them.
Prof. Ogwezzy-Ndissika explained to Healthstyleplus that the researchers undertook the study to understand the socio-economic conditions, health behaviours, and risk factors which may adversely impact the lives and livelihood systems of slum dwellers amid covid-19.
According to her, “During the period of the covid-19 pandemic, there were lots of studies and interventions across different populations and communities and we read quite a lot of things about what government was doing but nothing much was read about any focus on the Lagos slums dwellers.
“Their voices were also not strong or heard. So we thought it right to carry out a study on the slum dwellers particularly during the covid-19 pandemic in Lagos and see how we could amplify the findings so there can be inclusivity concerning government projects in that area for the future” said Ogwezzy-Ndissika.
She explained that the study group started with a baseline study and developed a self-reporting instrument that involved all the organised groups within the Lagos slums communities.
According to Ogwezzy-Ndissika, “It was a self-reporting study effort. We had to teach the community how to gather data and we only collated the data for processing; then, took the findings back to the community for validation and community ownership of the policy brief for public dissemination and to enable the government’s engagements and intervention”.
Concluding, Dr. Elias noted, “Covid-19 might have come and gone but what we are trying to do is to amplify the plights of slum dwellers in emergency preparedness in case of any other disease outbreak”.
According to Elias, we set out to know what mechanism is best for amplifying slum voices and promoting advocacy, and we found radio, television, Facebook, and WhatsApp platforms are slum dwellers preferred communication media”
He added that the study has been able to achieve its set objectives and come up with a Policy Brief that will provide feedback to the government on policy options in situations of national and global emergencies, and provide directions for future interventions at every community level