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Preventing COVID-19 Transmission in Slums

Researchers at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria have been sharing rapid research findings across national media outlets in the country to assist the government in making evidence-informed policy interventions in order to curtail the spread of COVID-19 in urban slums. Taming the spread of the virus in densely crowded urban slums, where many residents also have underlying health issues, is particularly challenging.

Through the NIHR Global Health Research Unit on Improving Health in Slums (directed by Prof Richard Lilford), the Nigerian team, led by Professor Akinyinka Omigbodun, swiftly mobilised to undertake some stakeholder engagement within three slum communities based in Ibadan and Lagos. Through this they aimed to determine their awareness of the virus, coverage of the government’s COVID-19 taskforce teams in the slums, and what could be done to limit the spread of the virus. Reported findings included poor adherence to social distancing due to deteriorating socioeconomic conditions by staying at home; scarcity of personal protective equipment; a reluctance to access healthcare facilities due to fear of contracting the virus; and also late presentation of the virus at facilities.

Recommendations by the research team for Lagos and Oyo state governments were the following:

  • Consider measures to alleviate the social and economic deprivation experienced by slum dwellers in order to help them observe preventative measures to help stop community spread of COVID-19.
  • For other states across Nigeria to follow the decision of Lagos state and pay enhanced hazard allowances to health workers.
  • Distribute free hand sanitisers and face masks across urban slum communities.
  • Set up COVID-19 testing facilities within slum communities to improve early detection of the virus and limit community transmission.

These findings were widely reported across the country, with articles published in ten national news outlets [1-10] and one state newspaper.[11] Within days of the newspaper articles appearing, the government’s relevant COVID-19 taskforce and communication commissioner went to the specific slum communities where the research took place to raise awareness of the virus, provide more information for residents, and to distribute free personal protective equipment, such as face masks and hand sanitisers.

The findings of this in-depth analysis are broadly in line with findings from a telephone survey that collected information on resident’s knowledge, attitudes, practices and needs around COVID-19 across households in five Nairobi urban slums recently published in the Conversation.[12]

Furthermore, a previous article published in an earlier issue of this News Blog,[13] authored by Profs Akinyinka Omigbodun and Richard Lilford, that advised against lock down in urban informal settlements in developing countries was picked up by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change and incorporated in their advice to governments around the world.

Jo Sartori, Project Manager


  1. Omigbodun A. Preventing COVID-19 Transmission in Urban Slums. This Day. 3 May 2020.
  2. Omigbodun A. Preventing COVID-19 Transmission in Nigerian Urban Slums. Business Day. 30 April 2020.
  3. Osoteku O. COVID-19: Health Experts Want Task Force Deployed to Slum Communities. Voice of Nigeria. 29 April 2020.
  4. Oyewale W. Makinde, Sanwo-Olu Urged to Deploy COVID-10 Task Force to Slums. Punch. 30 April 2020.
  5. Agboluaje R. Shortage of Reagents Delaying COVID-19 Tests in Oyo State Says Makinde. The Guardian, Nigeria. 30 April 2020.
  6. Feyisipo R. Coronavirus: UI Experts Want Makinde, Sanwo-Olu to Deploy Taskforce to Urban Slums. Business Day. 29 April 2020.
  7. Adebayo R. COVID-19: Health Expert Tasks Makinde, Sanwo-Olu on Urban Slums. Independent. 29 April 2020.
  8. Ojo O. COVID-19: Risks of transmission high in Lagos, Ibadan urban slums – Study. The Sun News Online. 29 April 2020.
  9. Ibukun E. COVID-19: Deploy taskforce to urban slums, UI Research Team urges Makinde, SanwoOlu. NNN News Nigeria. 29 April 2020.
  10. Akamo B. Deploy COVID-19 Task Force Teams To Urban Slums In Lagos, Oyo States, UI Research Team Urges Sanwo-Olu, Makinde. New Nigerian Newspapers. 29 April 2020.
  11. Abdulrahman A. COVID-19: Deploy Task Force To Urban Slums — UI Health Experts Task Makinde, Sanwo-Olu. Oyo Insight. 29 April 2020.
  12. Austrian K, Abuya T. We wanted to know how coronavirus affects Nairobi’s slum residents. What we found. The Conversation. 5 May 2020.
  13. Lilford R, Omigbodun A. COVID-19: Locking Down Urban Settlements in Sub-Saharan Africa. NIHR ARC West Midlands News Blog. 2020; 2(3): 3-4.
Fri 22 May 2020, 11:00 | Tags: COVID-19, LMIC, Slum health, Jo Sartori