As Covid-19 reveals new vulnerabilities in our urban communities, how are cities finding ways to identify and support these newly vulnerable groups?

In Bogota, Colombia, 45 percent of households are reliant on the informal sector for income. In the UK, middle income households in cities like London, UK, have increasingly signed up for food parcels as salary reductions and job losses put pressure on domestic finances. In Louisville, US, the city knew going into Covid-19 that 40 percent of its population could not afford $400 USD in an emergency.  

More generally, urban inequalities highlighted globally during Covid-19 response and recovery include:  

  • Disparities in the risk and outcomes of contracting Covid-19 for Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people;  
  • Increased risk for women contracting the virus at work, particularly those in care-giving jobs, and from domestic violence within their homes;  
  • Increased risk for members of the LGBTQI+ community at home and a higher risk of homelessness; and  
  • Reduced safe spaces, such as schools, which also provide access to meals, pastoral care and resources like internet and computers.

In Bogota, Colombia, the 45 percent of households reliant on the informal sector for income are rapidly falling below the poverty line. Many of these households escaped poverty in the last 15 years but are still vulnerable as informal sellers or street vendors. Households relying on income from the informal economy are often not included in efforts by the central and provincial governments to mitigate financial hardship on households. In Bogota, these households are now included in the allowance support, identified through a spatial analysis approach that used a population database and information on income and social service uptake.

In the UK, there was a 175 percent increase in food bank use between April 2019 and April 2020. In Hackney, London, the council IT team collated property data to identify local people most vulnerable to the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus crisis. In Greenwich, London, strategic ‘food pathways’ have been mapped to organize partnerships for large-scale food provision for vulnerable groups, and to relieve pressure on food banks. 

Meanwhile, in Quito, Ecuador, an existing method (R.I.S.Q: Risk assessment tool for Quito) is leveraged to map vulnerabilities and to effectively reach the most vulnerable population, especially in the context of food security. The city of Quito approach includes identifying a location with the most need and defining the city’s capacity to provide food where indicated to create a context-specific index.

Identifying locations with the most need in Quito (Source: Quito Resiliente) 

Further resources: 

Practice: Hear how Bogota, Colombia, is using maps and databases to identify vulnerable beneficiaries for direct cash transfers on Cities on the Frontline #12 – Unlocking Bogota

Opinion: Six reasons why demography matters during the pandemic – Maitreyi Bordia Das from the World Bank highlights how population studies can shape efforts to address and understand Covid-19, starting with fertility, mortality and migration and their implications. 

Lesson: Manchester Briefing #7 (25 June) highlights food and financial needs of vulnerable communities, including an example from Greenwich on food provision for vulnerable people needing to self-isolate or stay at home during Covid-19. 

How To: The Challenge of COVID-19, Reaching the Most Needed in Quito – The municipality of Quito, Ecuador, has adapted a methodology (R.I.S.Q: Risk assessment tool for Quito) to project and map vulnerabilities and effectively reach populations with the most need during Covid-19 and promote food security. 

Practice: Michael Berkowitz (Resilient Cities Catalyst) recommends that cities work with non-profit and community organizations to assist vulnerable populations with medicine or food provision. He also suggests having a plan to repurpose and ramp up city hall staff capacity to look through emergency basic needs and into recovery.