'Rich man's disease': Curious case of Covid in Dhaka slums
Enforcing social distancing is easier said than done in Dhaka, a city where the average home is less than 120 square feet and a million people live in cheek-by-jowl urban slums. In the capital's Korail Bosti, an informal settlement of over 1 lakh residents, people live packed together, and few have access to health care. Social distancing is a way of controlling the infectious Covid-19. But maintaining physical distance and personal hygiene to stop the outbreak seems impossible here. There are homes of just one room with a family of six to seven people living inside. Also, shared kitchens, toilets, communal water sources, open sewers, non-existent waste disposal systems and the dwellers' poor economic conditions make them more vulnerable. As the pandemic unfolded in the country, the slums of the city were feared to become virus hotspots. However, there has been no evidence so far that Covid-19 wreaked havoc on the slums. Covid-19 is a rich man's disease, believe many slum dwellers and do not find it necessary to wear a mask. And it is unthinkable to enforce social distancing there where people live in very close quarters. Virologists say that the urban slums, including Korail, were always vulnerable not only to Covid-19 infections but also to all other viral diseases. However, a recent study, carried out by the icddr,b found 71 per cent of slum dwellers in Dhaka have developed coronavirus antibodies. The icddr,b conducted the study "Drivers of Covid 19 in Slums and Non-slum Areas of Dhaka and Chattogram" on slum and non-slum areas in Dhaka and Chattogram between October last year and February this year. The slum dwellers might be already affected by a virus that works as a bulwark against Covid, protecting many poor people living there, according to experts.