Yangon, Myanmar, 16 September 2021 – Continuing its COVID-19 response, recovery and prevention efforts to protect the most vulnerable people in peri urban and densely populated areas, a UN-Habitat will provide access to safe water and improved environmental sanitation to informal settlements in eight townships in the Yangon area.

The project to provide the services through water supply infrastructures, hand washing stations, solid-waste management and sharing information, education, and communication (IEC) materials will benefit at least 25,000 households and 76,500 students.

Informal settlements in Yangon house an esti­mated 400,000, with majority of settlers living in highly dense areas, lacking access to water and sanitation, hygiene practices or adequate housing, thus increasing the risk of mass COVID-19 transmission within these settlements.

With financial support from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and in recognition of the serious public health emergency in informal settlements, UN-Habitat has conducted a rapid impact assessment study and a socio-economic impact analysis of COVID-19 in informal settlements to show evidence-based data on the extant of the socio-economic conditions in informal settlements in Yangon.

The surveys conducted in April and November 2020 presented alarming results, with 93.1 per cent of households reporting a fall in income, 85.6 per cent reporting difficulty in accessing healthcare and not having enough money, and 99.1 per cent reporting having had no savings over the previous 30 days. [pp1] 

In May 2020, UN-Habitat through funding from its headquarters supported 60,500 direct beneficiaries in informal settlements in Yangon and Sittwe to combat COVID-19 by expanding access to water, essential support kits, sanitizers and direct support to combat loss of income provided to its community mobilizers and volunteers.

Through this project, UN-Habitat provided 173 handwashing stations with soap installed in key locations in informal settlements and distributed 106,510 surgical masks and 27,500 cloth masks to residents of informal settlements and children in 32 schools. Three health centres serving informal settlements also received personal protection equipment (PPE) packages lasting two months.

As the battle against COVID-19 came at a time of acute water shortage, UN-Habitat also worked with community groups and small businesses in key locations across Sittwe to install a network of 27 public handwashing stations.

In addition, In May 2020 UN-Habitat published the “Housing at the forefront of the COVID-19 response,” a discussion paper advocating for greater protection of housing rights, which drew attention of urban stakeholders and government authorities on enhancing preparedness and increased coordination among the state holder during pandemic response for the urban poor.

Similarly, under the National Urban Policy Programme supported by the Republic of Korea, UN-Habitat has additionally reached over 12,500 people and 2,529 households supporting them with essential prevention kits including masks, sanitizers and hand washing soap.