Skip to Content

COVID-19 having major impacts on informal settlements, report shows

5 August 2020

The shutdown of Fiji’s national borders and colossal tourism sector has had a significant impact on the lives of already vulnerable families, according to a recently released RISE report.

The survey of almost 400 households across 12 informal settlements in the Greater Suva Area seeks to help inform evidence-based policy and program targeting.

Report executive summary:

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic presents unprecedented challenges for urban informal settlement dwellers in low- and middle-income countries. Very little is known, however, about the scale and impact of the pandemic on those living in informal settlements, which are usually excluded from formal census and monitoring efforts within already data-poor environments.

In response, the Revitalising Informal Settlements and their Environments program (RISE) implemented a rapid phone survey in 12 informal settlements in the Greater Suva Area between 25 May - 1 June 2020. The aim was to collect data on the impact of COVID-19 on informal settlement residents to develop knowledge that could help inform evidence-based policy and program targeting. The survey was completed with 408 households, representing 55% of households in RISE.

The findings indicate that the livelihoods of one-third (37%) of households had been directly impacted due to the deteriorating economic conditions related to COVID-19; 25% which had had their work hours reduced because of COVID-19, and 12% which had lost their job/income due to the downturn. In addition, 9% of households reported that their household is finding it difficult to meet their basic living costs and food needs.

The findings show that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed this already vulnerable population under even greater financial pressure and indicate the need for targeted assistance to informal settlement dwellers. Tenure insecurity, limited assets and savings, job and livelihood insecurity, coupled with the prevailing cash economy of urban life, means informal settlement residents are highly vulnerable to the immediate and
longer-term economic shocks of COVID-19. Without support, the positive socioeconomic
gains made over the past decades may be easily eroded and may negatively ripple
across Fijian society in the years ahead.

The survey was intentionally kept short to reduce the burden on respondents during this difficult time. RISE is planning to repeat the survey in August/September 2020 to compare changes over time and will also add additional questions that can enrich the evidence regarding the social nuances of the impact of COVID-19 (i.e. through a gender and social inclusion lens).

Read the full report: The impact of COVID-19 in Fijian informal settlements.