Governments urged to secure right to housing for all to curb COVID-19 risks
Children bathe in a makeshift tub from a discarded refrigerator in Manila on June 9, 2019.
AFP/Noel Celis, File

Governments urged to secure right to housing for all to curb COVID-19 risks

(Philstar.com) - March 18, 2020 - 7:10pm

MANILA, Philippines — States must take “extraordinary” measures to ensure the homeless and informal settlers are given access to adequate housing to protect them against the coronavirus pandemic, a United Nations expert said.

“Home has become the frontline defense against the coronavirus. Home has rarely been more of a life or death situation,” Leilani Farha, UN special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, said in a statement Wednesday.

Governments across the globe, including the Philippines, ordered their people to stay home in a drastic bid to arrest the spread of the contagion that has infected nearly 200,000 worldwide.

“I am deeply concerned about two specific population groups: those living in emergency shelters, homelessness and informal settlements, and those facing job loss and economic hardship which could result in mortgage and rental arrears and evictions,” Farha said.

The month-long enhanced community quarantine of the main island of Luzon has left those living in informal settlements and those have no homes in uncertainty as these groups are particularly vulnerable to contracting the virus.

Some 4.5 million people do not have any shelter in the Philippines.

The quarantine also effectively halted business and commerce in Luzon, affecting millions of workers including those from small- and medium-enterprises.

The UN expert said that at a minimum, governments must provide emergency housing with services for those who are affected by the virus and ensure that the enforcement of containment measures such as curfews does not lead to the punishment of an individual bases on his or her housing status.

Governments must also provide adequate housing, including using vacant and abandoned units and available short-term rentals.

“I am urging states to take extraordinary measures to secure the right to housing for all to protect against the pandemic,” Farha said.

She added: “By ensuring access to secure housing with adequate sanitation, states will not only protect the lives of those who are homeless or living in informal settlements but will help protect the entire world’s population by flattening the curve of COVID-19.”

The Philippines has so far reported 193 COVID-19 infections, with 14 fatalities. Seven patients have recovered. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

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