Despite the fact that today we breathe cleaner and fresher air and with a relatively low amount of corona in Bogota, with 1,333 confirmed cases as of April 17, 2020 on a population of 7.4 million, the quarantine has decreased the possibility of many families to generate income, especially for those where their income comes from jobs as freelancers or informal jobs, and even has caused hunger. Currently, tourism businesses, restaurants, and business in general are very affected, as well as all families that depend on income in the informal sector such as vendors of sweets, crafts and clothing in the public space, street artists, to name just a few.
According to DANE (Entity responsible for analysis and dissemination of official Colombian statistics), the informal sector of the Bogotá economy had a proportion of 41.1% at the end of 2019, equivalent to 1.6 million people.
The lockdown in Bogota means that you can only go outside running essential errands for basic needs such as groceries, notarial procedures, banking and medical appointments. Since last April 13, a gender restriction started in the city, in order to avoid crowds when going out. On even days, women go out and on odd days, men go to stock up and carry out the other activities indicated.
Despite the tranquility and great support of the people of Bogota, there is also an increase in concern and uncertainty regarding the situation of the poorest families who have nothing to eat. The Mayor of Bogota is increasing her efforts to support poor families through subsidies and grocery handouts.
“Bogotá Solidaria en Casa” has been set up by the Mayor’s Office to facilitate those who have resources making donations to reach the poorest families. Also it has been observed in some neighborhoods that entities of the district walk the streets and through their databases or what they observe or perceive on their walks, deliver grocery packages to satisfy the hunger of those most in need. Also, solidarity is beginning to be seen in the neighborhoods, where some residents have begun to promote donations for the poorest.
Additionally, a code has been created in the neighborhoods, in which hungry homes put a red cloth on their windows, as a symbol that they are experiencing difficulties and thus ask for help from their neighbors and the Mayor’s Office. “The initiative started with the mayor of Soacha. In the face of the serious humanitarian emergency, the possibility that the families who need it most display their red flag in the window of their home began, “despite the fact that these flags have also appeared in some middle-class neighborhoods, the highest concentration according to the news is in the southern neighborhoods of the city, which confirms the social condition of this sector, where the population with the lowest resources is concentrated, while in the north upper-class families are concentrated.
Foto by Diana Moncada
In the last days, the first demonstrations and “cacerolazos” have popped up in different places in the south of the city, as well as an attempt to loot a supermarket. Meanwhile, in the north most families can work and study from home, enjoying the tranquility of the city, in the south there are more people who do not have these luxuries. There are State subsidies linked to Sisbén, which allows beneficiaries to have access to health and other socioeconomic support programs, however, many people who carry out informal jobs are not in this database, which means they are being left out. of these benefits.
It should be noted that in Colombia there is a system of economic strata based on a classification of residential properties and their environment, which identifies, for example, physical elements (place of door, material and others) of the dwelling and a subjective visual evaluation of the surroundings : the urban or rural context in which the house is located which is categorized in six levels or strata ranging from ‘poverty zone’, ‘middle class residential zone’ and ‘exclusive residential’ among others, linked to differences in access to benefits and subsidies, and differential prices of public services, among others. In which families in the lower estratos pay a lower fee for internet, telephone, water and gas than for the higher “estratos”.
However, this system does not take into account the income of the households, making it likely that households with higher incomes live in lower socioeconomic strata neighborhoods or that low-income households live in middle and upper strata sectors (situation known as hidden poverty).
All this means that now in Bogota there is a dilemma between continuing quarantine or reactivating the economy, mainly taking into account the hunger and needs suffered by many families predominantly in low-income areas. In the coming days, and the figures of differents aspects of this pandemic, it will be possible to know what new measures the district and national government will take in this regard.