COVID-19 in Urban Slums of the Developing World
23 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2020
Date Written: June 22, 2020
We study the spread of COVID-19 across neighbourhoods of cities in the developing world and find that small numbers of the most densely populated neighbourhoods, containing the largest slum settlements, account for the highest density of cases, and thus constitute the most at-risk urban locations in the outbreak. We then present a stochastic network model to study the spread of a respiratory epidemic through physically proximate and accidental daily human contacts in a city, and simulate outcomes for two kinds of neighbourhoods - slum and non-slum. The model reproduces observed empirical outcomes and these outcomes are found robust for a broad set of parameter values - reflecting the potential validity of these findings for other such scenarios of epidemic spread across cities with slums in the developing world. We also find that distribution of cases becomes less unequal as the epidemic runs its course, and that both peak and cumulative caseloads are worse for slum neighbourhoods than non-slums at the end of an epidemic. Large slums in the developing world therefore contain the most vulnerable populations in an outbreak, and the continuing growth of metropolises in Asia and Africa presents significant challenges for future respiratory outbreaks from perspectives of public health and socioeconomic equity.
Note: Funding: The authors received no funding for this work.
Competing Interests: The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Keywords: epidemic, slums, COVID-19, urban, developing, cities
JEL Classification: I14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation