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Residents of four communities in Montego Bay are to benefit from a US$100,000 coronavirus (COVID-19) response programme being undertaken by the St. James Municipal Corporation and United Nations (UN)-Habitat.

The initiative will target the communities of Canterbury, Albion Lane, William Street, and Paradise Row, through educational and environmental interventions and distribution of care packages. It will run from July through to September.

The project, which is a component of UN-Habitat’s Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme (PSUP), has three elements.

The first involves COVID-19 sensitisation and education through the painting of murals, community consultation and engagement, and distribution of sanitisers, face masks and more; the second is clean-up and removal of bulky waste from these communities and the North Gully as well as sanitisation of public spaces; and the third element is distribution of care packages to more than 450 households every other week for the duration of the programme.

Mayor of Montego Bay, Councillor Homer Davis, in his address at the virtual launch on July 8, noted that UN-Habitat has been working closely with the Municipal Corporation in other areas and the COVID-19 response programme “will bring added relief to many families who will be benefiting educationally, environmentally and through the donation of care packages and ongoing support”.

“The UN-Habitat support programme has received the full support of the municipal corporation and can be seen as a shot in the arm for us as we continue to implement and create support initiatives for our citizens,” he added.

For her part, PSUP’s Programme Manager, Kerstin Sommer, said that the onset of COVID-19 has shown the importance of extending a helping hand to the most vulnerable and people living in informal settlements.

“So we hope that it (the programme) will be catalytic with what we are doing here and move to something bigger with even more years of partnership. We are looking forward to continuing this journey together,” she said.

The PSUP, launched in 2008, aims to improve the living conditions in towns and cities and positively contribute to Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 7, which is to improve the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by the year 2020.

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