QCOSTARICA – When you live in a small house and it is difficult to have food on the table every day, facing the confinement of the pandemic is even more difficult.
That is what Celia Sandí and her family experienced during the last year.
In this home in Jericó de Desamparados, where they barely feed the family with ¢75,000 colones (US$123 dollars) a month, the virus did not make anyone sick, but it made life difficult for everyone.
“If we went through difficult situations before the pandemic, now with this confinement it has been tremendous, both emotionally and financially, because it has been an incredible stress for my family,” said this 39-year-old mother.
Doña Celia and her family are among the 300,000 people who had the worst conditions to face the “stay at home” recommendation by health authorities to reduce the chances of contagion of covid-19.
All of them live in spaces of 60 square meters (640 square feet) or less, and they are also in poor condition.
This is one of the findings of the study carried out by the postgraduate degree in Architecture of the University of Costa Rica (UCR) with the support of the State of the Nation, and based on data from the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INEC).
The analysis devoted special attention to analyzing the measure of confinement or “stay at home” in the face of inequalities in residential spaces.
The report recognizes that a group of citizens had benefits with the restriction of mobility, such as the decrease in costs of transportation, food, clothing, health, and savings in travel time.
However, for those sectors that before the pandemic already had problems with their homes due to the physical state of the structure, overcrowding, pollution, domestic violence, among other factors, “the confinement has only worsened the quality of life”.
The study highlighted that 8.5% of the country’s homes are in poor condition, which implies a deterioration in the roof, external walls, and floor. That percentage is equivalent to more than 440,000 people.
To that number must be added a contingent of 1.7 million people, who, although they live on more favorable terms, their homes are considered “deficient” or not in “optimal conditions.”
However, when crossing data on the size of the house and the state of the same, two figures emerge: There are at least 2.2 million people throughout the territory who live in buildings of 60 square meters or less.
In addition, among them, there are 310,000 who live in houses, in addition to being small, damaged.
As the researchers indicate, with the pandemic, the home became the only living space, which in theory was a safe haven, but also a work space, leisure, and development of all kinds of activities for all occupants.
This means that all family members compete for spaces in the house, not only for studying but also for teleworking, which generates overcrowding.
These complications increased with the passing of the pandemic, because in one year, the employed population who worked in their own homes went from 6% to 14%, more than double.
According to the National Household Survey (Enaho), a total of 257,451 people in Costa Rica work from home, of which 79,790 do so in homes measuring 60 m² or less.
“An important fact to observe is that between the years 2019 and 2020, the increase in the number of people who assume the home as their workplace is concentrated in those who live in homes larger than 60 m² and up to 200 m².
“At the extremes, the smallest and largest dwellings, rather see their participation in the total of this group of workers reduce,” the study explains.
For many living in these conditions, the “Bono Proteger”, the government aid to the poorest during the pandemic for three months was insufficient.
More viruses due to living conditions
The UCR investigation highlighted the relationship between the number of positive cases of coronavirus and the living conditions in districts.
As an example, it highlights the ease of spread of the virus in informal settlements (tugurios or shantytowns) due to overcrowded conditions, low endowment and quality of services, lack of public spaces, the poor network of mobility spaces, and poor condition of homes.
In that sense, the World Bank warned in 2020: “The risk of contagion increases in neighborhoods that lack physical structures and services that improve habitability, and where residents have no other option than to go out every day to look for work or services.”
Therefore, “in short, economic geography, not physical geography, determines the risk of contagion. Claiming otherwise is an urban myth”.
“In the same way, for a population with a high presence of informal employment, isolating themselves, staying at home means seeing the basic sustenance of the family compromised, they are exposed to contagion due to the need to achieve an income even within the framework of quarantine,” the UCR researchers added.