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Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic cont.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for informal workers, who have limited access to resources and no social protection. During the initial lockdown they were faced with an impossible choice: either comply with the restrictive lockdowns and risk starvation or go to work and risk infection and police harassment. Download the Durban factsheet compiled by WIEGO to read more about the impact of the pandemic on informal workers, which also includes recommendations of key areas of support.

The impact of the pandemic is still being felt by informal workers. Read our latest blog which shares recent stories from the street . While many market traders have succeeded in keeping their livelihoods afloat for the past year, Nokuthula (pictured below) fears for the future of the market because she, and many other traders, are in such dire straits financially.

Image: Nokuthula at her trading stall in the Herb Market. Warwick Junction, Durban. By Misiwe Maphumulo

Although it may feel to many people who have a more stable income that we have returned to some degree of normality, these stories highlight how the pandemic continues to affect informal workers, almost a year to the day since we went into our first COVID-19 related lockdown. COVID-19 is likely to be with us for a long time to come; it is imperative that the struggles of these vital workers are recognised. 

Our pre-lockdown response allowed us to test and realise the inter-connected challenges the community was dealing with. Together with the teams knowledge and long history with urban planning in the area, it raised our consciousness of what needed to be done. AeT worked closely with WIEGO and public health experts from University of KwaZulu-Natal’s (UKZN), all of which has informed a strategic response to shaping the future of informal workplaces post-lockdown.


Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic

Due to AeTs long history with the Warwick Junction community and urban planning in the area, we were inextricably drawn into a response (unfunded mandate) when the COVID-19 pandemic reached South Africa. AeTs initial interventions were reactive to the immediate needs of informal workers, however we are developing a strategic plan with the aim to urgently re-establish conducive livelihood opportunities and prioritize personal health safety in public space. Your contribution will support immediate project initiatives.

Images of Brook Street in Warwick Junction, depicts the effect of the lockdown on the informal economy, leaving markets desolate for most of the period of lockdown level 5 (left), compared to a previously ‘normal’ trading day (right).

We are also tracking the impacts of coronavirus on the informal economy. For the past few weeks, informal workers have slowly been returning to Durban’s central trading hub. Some traders who are not yet working are becoming desperate. 

“we are dying from not working, as for me I don’t even know what to do at this point. I am a widow, I only rely on selling on the street.”

Even with the move to lockdown level 3, informal workers still face many challenges. With the opening of most of the economy, more commuters will be passing through Warwick Junction; this means more potential customers but also a greater possibility of exposure to the coronavirus. Striking a balance between economic and health interests is imperative.

Read our latest update Impacts of Coronavirus: Evolving challenges faced by informal workers

Image of commuters in Warwick, by Dennis Gilbert in 2019 by permission Asiye eTafuleni.



  1. Phumzile Xulu

    1 April 2021

  2. Rebecca Plumbley

    24 July 2020

  3. Dimitris Sgoutas

    20 July 2020

14 Donations