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Lille, France: access to drinking water and hygiene in the slums in the urban area

Published on Wednesday 19 May 2021

Since March 2020, our teams have been working with deprived populations to provide access to water and hygiene and enable them to protect themselves from epidemics. Given the rapid spread of Covid-19 throughout France, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL has extended its action since April 2021 to the Lille area (Lille Metropole).

 

social insecurity and COVID-19

Hand and face-washing, disinfection of living areas and furniture, social distancing: how can such basic protective measures be implemented in the absence of access to water and hygiene products and in cramped living quarters?

Such is the dilemma confronted by hundreds of thousands of individuals living in an insecure social context in France. And yet these are the people who are the hardest hit by the consequences of the epidemic.

When faced with lack of access to water, many make do with unsafe practices exposing themselves to major health risks. Others must walk considerable distances to reach a water faucet. In addition it is impossible to obtain basic hygiene products and they must deal with overcrowded housing.

In order to meet with these daily challenges, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL has implemented programs in several regions of France to connect to the drinking water distribution network and has distributed hand-washing and hygiene kits. The initial programs took place in Île-de-France (the Paris area) Toulouse and Nantes. Once the requirements were evaluated and authorization obtained from local authorities, our teams started their programs in May 2021 in 11 slums in the Lille Metropole area to provide the inhabitants with access to drinking water and the necessary hygiene products for the implementation of protective measures. A number of isolated, homeless individuals in the vicinity of the slums were also able to benefit from water access.

  • 67 million inhabitants
  • 14.7% poverty rate
  • 36% out of 189 on the Human Development Index
  • 5 380 people helped

These actions required considerable cooperation from local bodies. According to Manon Gallego, coordinator for SOLIDARITES INTERNATIONAL programs in France, “ In each of these zones we responded to the invitation of local organizations to carry out the diagnosis.” She goes on to explain, “This is the basic principle behind our mode of intervention, that is, to coordinate our efforts with local grass roots associations and local authorities in order to meet the specific needs of vulnerable populations in particular concerning access to water and sanitation. In Lille, we benefitted from the hands-on experience of the local organization ‘Collectif solidarité Roms et gens du voyage Lille-Metropole’ (Solidarity with Roma and Travellers Lille-Metropole) thanks to their excellent relations with the families living in the slums, which facilitated the diagnosis as well as the implementation of our programs.”

Dominique Plancke, vice-President of the ‘Collectif solidarité Roms et gens du voyage Lille-Metropole’, also recognizes the advantages of cooperation amongst associations and emphasizes, “Our organization has been working for quite some time on the issue of water access for the Roma population. SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL’s competence and expertise were instrumental in the success of this project.”

Given the extent of the needs in the various areas where we have already intervened but also elsewhere throughout France, our organization is examining the possibility of extending its actions with vulnerable populations in France.

 

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