In South Africa, demand for housing close to viable/sustained sources of employment has far outstripped supply; and the size of the population living in temporary structures/shacks (and in poorly serviced informal settlements) has continued to increase. While such dwellings and settlements pose a number of established risks to the health of their residents, the present study aimed to explore whether they might also undermine the potential impact of regulations intended to safeguard public health, such as the stringent lockdown restrictions imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021. Using a representative sample of 1,381 South African households surveyed in May-June 2021, the present study found that respondents in temporary structures/shacks were more likely to report non-compliance (or difficulty in complying) with lockdown restrictions when compared to those living in traditional/formal houses/flats/rooms/hostels (OR:1.61; 95%CI:1.06-2.45). However, this finding was substantially attenuated and lost precision following adjustment for preceding sociodemographic and economic determinants of housing quality (adjusted OR:1.20; 95%CI:0.78-1.87). Instead, respondents were far more likely to report non-compliance (or difficulty in complying) with COVID-19 lockdown restrictions if they were ‘Black/African’, young, poorly educated and under- employed; or if their dwellings lacked private/indoor toilet facilities (regardless of their socioeconomic position or whether they resided in temporary structures/shacks; adjusted OR:1.56; 95%CI:1.08,2.22). Restrictions imposed to safeguard public health need to be more sensitively designed to accommodate the critical role that poverty and inadequate service delivery play in limiting the ability of residents living in temporary structures/shacks and inadequately serviced dwellings/settlements to comply.

Cite as

Ellison, G., Mattes, R., Rhoma, H. & de Wet, T. 2022, 'Economic vulnerability and poor service delivery made it more difficult for shack-dwellers to comply with Covid-19 restrictions', South African Journal of Science, 118(5/6). https://doi.org/10.17159/sajs.2022/13301

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Last updated: 16 September 2022
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