News Release

Cape Town, Brussels, 27 July 2020 – Cities Alliance is launching a new programme to support the global efforts in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Sida, the purpose of the project is twofold: strengthen the resilience of communities in informal settlements and support the sustainability of civil society organizations, in cooperation with Slum Dwellers International – SDI; and reinforce the capacities of informal communities to respond to the current outbreak and better prepare for future crises.

The pandemic is having disastrous effects on families in informal settlements that are home to nearly a billion people. These communities have to contend with insecure property rights, low-quality housing, poor sanitation, and limited access to basic services, including health care. Common responses and general health regulations intended to limit the spread of COVID-related infections are a challenge for many slum dwellers. Humanitarian responses do not always reach them. Lockdowns and containment measures cause tremendous losses to livelihoods for families that already have limited or no access to social safety nets.

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Access to water and sanitation is a challenge in informal settlements. Slum in Ghana. Photo: Cities Alliance. 

The new initiative is intended to support the needs of informal communities in 21 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Activities will be implemented primarily through existing community-based systems and networks.


The current crisis has shown the vital need to scale up efforts of organised community networks to effectively tackle the pandemic, implement meaningful recovery plans and provide solutions in the long-run, William Cobbett, Director of Cities Alliance.


Against this background, and in line with its global partnership identity, Cities Alliance will award direct grants to local NGOs in support to federations of urban poor within the SDI network in Benin, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Brazil, India, and the Philippines. The grants will be managed by Cities Alliance, while SDI will provide technical support to its affiliates.


Slum dwellers federations, community groups, street vendors, and waste pickers associations are the frontline actors in the COVID response. We must sustain the civil society fabric in the settlements to solve the crisis. This programme is a great opportunity to do so, Joseph Muturi, Chair of the SDI Management Committee.

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The new initiative will support the needs of informal communities in 21 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Informal settlement in Sierra Leone. Photo: Cities Alliance. 

The second component of the project combines the implementation of COVID-19 prevention and protection measures with initiatives to reduce the social and economic impacts of the epidemic. The activities will be carried out under the common United Nations framework for COVID-19 response, in collaboration with networks of Civil Based Organisations, including slum dwellers and informal workers’ groups in Bangladesh, Guatemala, Liberia, and Uganda.

The activities comprise the distribution of personal protective equipment and hygiene materials, the provision of water and sanitation facilities and the delivery of community awareness and outreach campaigns in slums, together with advocacy, learning and knowledge exchange at regional and global level, engaging Cities Alliance members.

The EUR 3 million initiative will be implemented over a period of 12 months.



Cities Alliance is a global partnership fighting urban poverty and supporting cities to deliver sustainable development. Hosted by UNOPS, the organisation is formed by 29 members including multilateral organisations, UN agencies, Governments, NGOs, local governments, and city networks. Its core topics of work include economic growth, gender equality, migration, climate resilience, and innovation, with a primary focus on informality.

Slum Dwellers International (SDI) is a network of community-based organizations of the urban poor in 33 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Organized federations throughout the SDI network profile, map, and enumerate their settlements to gather invaluable planning data and catalyse community action and partnerships.

Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) works on behalf of the Swedish parliament and government with the mission to reduce poverty in the world. The agency allocates resources and knowledge with the goal of making a difference for people in Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America. Sida’s vision is to safeguard the rights of every individual and their opportunity to live a dignified life.


For more information:

Cities Alliance - Yamila Castro, Communications Officer  

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