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Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is the most unequal region in the world. The crisis unleashed by COVID-19 has only deepened inequalities even further, including housing inequalities. According to recent data, 1 in 4 urban dwellers in LAC lives in an informal settlement.
To try to tackle this problem, the IDB Office in Paraguay, with the support of the MUVH and the Settlement Support Network, launched the “Workshop on Urban Resilience in Post-COVID-19 Informal Settlements” last year. The objective was to share, in a collaborative way, success stories that have made it possible to work to reduce urban informality, both within the country and at the regional level. As a result, the Workshop managed to gather 6 experiences with a great potential for replicability.
We invite you to continue reading to find out in detail these success stories that are being used by Paraguay, but that can also serve to inspire other countries in our region to respond effectively to the phenomenon of urban informality.
1. The importance of collaborative work
The Settlement Support Network of Paraguay is an independent and voluntary network of 37 civil society organizations organized and articulated with public institutions. This organization participated in this Workshop and shared its national strategy for resilience in popular settlements, with a series of objectives and guidelines based on the experiences of the IDB Cities Network. The institutions, working together, implemented a mapping and distribution of hygiene posts in the most vulnerable neighborhoods, as well as training community leaders and accompanying 200 professionals from educational institutions for face-to-face school reintegration.
The key learnings from this session were:
- the importance of having accurate information
- have the joint support of the public, private and civil society sectors
- the need for the communities themselves to participate in the design of strategies
2. The role of social research and volunteering to get the key data
TECHO participated in this Workshop to present its research on precarious settlements (RAP) and highlight the importance of using social research and volunteering to obtain key data on informal settlements.
This non-profit organization has been working since 2015 on data analysis in precarious settlements to end poverty in the region. Its RAP research is, to date, the most robust and up-to-date information base that Paraguay has in order to learn about the situation of informal settlements. This work, carried out mainly through voluntary work, aims to analyze this type of settlement, and generate information that may be useful in public policies of socio-territorial management.
The methodology used by TECHO generates georeferenced data regarding a series of variables such as: location, land tenure situation, community organization, quality and materiality of housing, access to basic services and urban facilities, among others.
According to the results of the latest RAPs, carried out between 2015 and 2020, only in the departments of Central, Itapuá, Caaguazú, San Pedro and Alto Paraná, there are around 805 precarious settlements, which are home to approximately 62,160 families. This means that, statistically, more than 3.3% of households in Paraguay live in informal conditions. However, for the organization, the real number of people affected by this urban phenomenon is not yet known.
3. Latest technologies for an informed decision making
The executing unit of the Chacarita Alta Neighborhood Improvement Program in Asunción (which is financed with IDB resources), and which belongs to the Ministry of Urbanism, Housing and Habitat, developed, with the support of the Mexican firm CAPSUS, the pilot Colabmap COVID-19.
It is a technological platform that was born to respond to the health crisis and allows obtaining georeferenced data to support informed decision-making.
Colabmap has a mobile application to monitor information in informal neighborhoods on health status, basic services, employment, food security, overcrowding, among other critical variables. In addition, it allows knowing, tabulating and georeferencing demands in a certain region for previously configured topics, through queries made by phone or the web. This information is displayed in heat maps or Hot Spots, where the places within the community that concentrate specific problems and demands are identified.
4. Good practices on how to manage the recovery from COVID-19 in the informal city
The representative of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) at the IDB Office in Uruguay participated in the Workshop to share good international practices in the region regarding the management of the pandemic in the informal city.
This paper presented the results of the publication How have cities responded to COVID-19 in the informal city?, which compiles a wide variety of mitigation measures in various places worldwide, emphasizing the management stages emergency and recovery management.
5. The importance of adapting urban strategies for socio-urban inclusion
A renowned Brazilian architect, with 40 years of experience in urban planning and regularization of informal settlements, shared his experience of more than 50 years on the subject. He highlighted the importance of having a clear concept of settlements and informal urbanization in order to intervene in them. He emphasized the need for planning, monitoring the territory and its inhabitants, linked to the objectives of the global agenda and the efforts of local governments, academia and NGOs.
6. Neighborhood improvement programs with a gender approach and attention to vulnerable groups
The director of Fundación Procasha participated in the workshop to share her experience in the informal neighborhoods of Cochabamba, Bolivia. In Cochabamba, neighborhood improvement programs have been developed with a gender approach and care for vulnerable groups to improve the lives of its inhabitants.
In his presentation, the importance of citizen participation, the proper use of tools for data processing and the monitoring of information on vulnerable groups to carry out this type of programs was highlighted.
The case of Paraguay: strategies to reduce urban inequalities
In the next blog in this series, we will address how these experiences helped to define, in a participatory manner, the main challenges and possible strategies to reduce urban inequalities in Paraguay.
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