| PNG National Research Institute | Edited extracts
BOROKO – The paper, ‘Covid-19 pandemic as perceived by residents of informal-built areas segment of Port Moresby’, looks at the Covid-19 pandemic and the response by the Papua New Guinea government as perceived by settlement residents in the national capital.
The research covered settlements at Bush Wara, 8-Mile, Joyce Bay, Kipo, Mautana, Ogoniva, Ranuguri, Talai, Taurama and Vanagi.
Of the 195 residents who were interviewed in these 10 settlements, 77% perceived the pandemic as a hoax and an opportunity created by some government officials to divert public funds for their own use.
Only 13% perceived the pandemic as real, and less than 2% said the government did well in tackling it.
Furthermore, about one in every 10 respondents complained bitterly about police brutality during the state of emergency.
These concerns raised by respondents suggest that settlement residents might have been left behind in the course of conducting the Covid-19 pandemic awareness campaign.
It also seems that response measures did not properly consider the interests of settlement residents.
The tough lockdown measures, implemented as a way to reduce the spread of Covid-19, had adverse impacts on the livelihood of residents, more than half losing a portion of their income.
As some settlement residents’ livelihoods are strongly linked to informal business activities, the lockdown restricted them from doing their normal businesses.
About one-third of respondents could not do their business at all, the resultant income loss restricting access to basic necessities such as food, housing and clothing.
Some of the respondents were unable to pay rent and about 11% were rendered homeless.
In terms of income, 80% of respondents reported that they lost half their income and almost all said they had not been able to cope well with the challenges they faced.
In terms of strategies to deal with Covid-19 itself, respondents found social distancing difficult and face masks too expensive.
Several lessons can be drawn from the handling of the pandemic in settlements.
- Most residents believe the pandemic is a hoax indicating inadequate awareness about the disease.
- The response to the pandemic appears not to be well coordinated.
- Most settlement residents whose livelihoods are strongly linked to informal activities were hit harder by lockdown measures which restricted the movement of people and closed some open markets.
- Some settlement residents appear to have been brutalised by members of the police force whose mandate is to protect the public.
- The pandemic response team requires effective and efficient monitoring, evaluation and feedback mechanisms.
- Most settlement residents find it difficult to adapt to wearing face masks, social distancing and personal hygiene due to prevailing living conditions and a loss of income.