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Massachusetts Institute of Technology

COVID-19 in Slums & Informal Settlements: Guidelines & Responses

Massachusetts Institute of Technology via edX


The COVID-19 pandemic accentuates existing vulnerabilities. While multiple international and national guidelines have been released, it remains unclear the extent to which these so-called “best practices” are adequate or feasible for the unique challenges faced by individuals living in self-built, urban poor settlements. Without a reliable source of income, adequate housing, water, or sanitation infrastructure, it is virtually impossible for guidelines such as social isolation, social distancing, and frequent hand washing to be implemented. What, then, is occurring on the ground in informal settlements, and which guidelines are legitimately helpful?

This course aims to answer that question, taking into consideration a wide range of perspectives. Experts from a variety of backgrounds, including academics, community leaders, residents of informal settlements, public officials, and NGO workers will share their experience through brief lectures and other resources. Students will have the opportunity to interact with experts and share their experiences as well.

This course is geared towards those who seek to understand the contrast between top-down governmental responses and bottom-up local responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. It addresses issues of governance to understand the politics that regulate urban poor communities and condition the response of governments and other development agents. This course will particularly benefit street-level public officials, community activists, non-profit advocates, settlement residents, and local and central government agents working in and with self-organized communities in the Global South. It will enhance their understanding of the current context, and contribute to their preparation for future crises.

Join MIT faculty, practitioners, and a global community of learners to understand the impact of COVID-19 in urban poor communities and how to address the unique set of challenges it presents.

Taught by

Ceasar McDowell, Karenna Groff, Daniela Beltrame, Amelia Seabold and Joaquin Benitez

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  • Anonymous
    I learned so much in this course and loved the case studies. The teaching team was responsive and engaging. Highly recommend!!

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