source: UN-HABITAT,The Challenge of Slums: Global Report on Human Settlement, Earthscan, London 2003
Basic services needed for good health often do not reach the urban poor because municipal authorities do not recognize many informal settlements for political and administrative reasons and thus these areas are not eligible for services…
- poor urban dwellers suffer overcrowding in inadequate housing, little access to clean water and sanitation, growing amounts of uncollected waste and deteriorating air quality. In some cases, slum areas are not classified as urban precisely because they lack services.
- poor areas of Latin American cities in general have better utilities than South Asia, which, in turn, usually have minimum urban services, like water and electricity, that many African slums lack;
- people in slums often pay more for services that other urban residents and they receive services of lower quality. For example: in Istanbul water from private vendors costs 10 times the public rate while in Mumbaivendors charge 20 times more. Poor households often spend 5% to 10% of their incomes to buy water;
- in highly industrialised countries, almost 100% of households are connected to piped water. The average water consumption for these households is 215 litres per person daily. Less than 20% of households in Africa are connected to piped water and only 40% have access to water within 200 meters of their house. City dwellers in Africa only use 50 litres of water per person per day. Globally, the highest median price of water is in Africa;
- water is often scarce in urban areas of developing countries. At least 1/3 of urban water supplies in Africa and Latin America and 1/2 in Asia operate only intermittently (for everybody, not to mention slums’ situation). Few cities in developing countries have adequate sewerage systems, which are usually limited to the more advantaged areas;
- an estimated 57% of urban Africans lack access to basic sanitation and in cities like Nairobi the poor must rely on ‘flying toilets’ (defecation into a plastic bag). In Mumbai, meanwhile, the sanitation problem is defined by ratios of 1 toilet seat per 500 inhabitants in the poorer districts. Only 11% of poor neighbourhoods in Manila and 18% in Dhaka have formal means to dispose of sewage;(1)
- quite apart from the incidence of the HIV/AIDS plague, the UN considers that 2 out of 5 African slum-dwellers live in a poverty that is literally ‘life-threatening’. The urban poor are everywhere forced to settle on hazardous and otherwise unbuildable terrains - over-steep hillslopes, river banks and floodplains. Likewise they squat in the deadly shadows of refineries, chemical factories, toxic dumps, or in the margins of railroads and highways;
- poverty, as a result, has ‘constructed’ an urban disaster problem of unprecedented frequency and scope, as typified by chronic flooding in Manila, Dhaka and Rio, pipeline conflagrations in Mexico City and Cubatão (Brazil), the Bhopal catastrophe in India, a munitions plant explosion in Lagos, and deadly mudslides in Caracas, La Paz and Tegucigalpa;
- inequality in the home means unequal access to healthcare: for the poor, the cost of healthcare is disproportionately high relative to their income and access to health care is closely linked to a person’s social status;
- in most less developed countries, levels of mortality and disease are lower in urban than in rural areas. However, there are enormous disparities between the urban poor and their more affluent neighbours. In Porto Alegre, Brazil, the infant mortality rate in the early 1990s varied from more than 60 deaths per 1,000 live births in the city's poorest districts to less than 5 in the wealthiest. Research in Quito, Ecuador, uncovered infant mortality rates of 129 within families of manual workers in squatter settlements and 5 in upper-class districts;(2)
- the lack of secure tenure is a central characteristic of slum life. Forced eviction of residents of informal settlements is the most dramatic manifestation of the fight for land and the position of the poor. In the case of evictions women suffer in particular as they bare responsibility for finding new shelter both for themselves and for their children and extended families.
- there are many recent examples of violent slums’ mass-evictions. In Mumbai, between November 2004 and January 2005, roughly 80,000 homes were demolished, affecting some 300,000 people. Most of them have not been resettled, and are actually living on the street;
- in Zimbabwe, since May 2005 the government has been forcibly evicting and demolishing people’s homes and market stalls in the capital and countrywide. The homes targeted were informal backyard dwellings, which have grown up due to the critical shortage of housingin most of Zimbabwe’s urban areas. The UN Human Rights Commission estimates that up to 200,000 people may have been made homeless by the operation in Harare alone. In total, it is estimated that up to 1/4 of Zimbabwe’s population will have been affected – that’s more than 3 million people left homeless; (3)
Connections to infrastructure - informal settlements (%)*
|sewerage ||electricity ||telephone ||access to |
|19.1 ||7.4||20.3||2.9 ||40.0|
|38.3 ||7.4||75.7||25.4 ||89.1|
*source: UN HABITAT, The Challenge of Slums, Nairobi 2003
Note: water connection (column 1) refers to percentage of households with a piped water connection. Access to water (column 5) means having potable water within 200 metres of the household (e.g., standpipes, wells etc), and includes water connections (since most countries presume piped water is potable). These data may contain inaccuracies as sample sizes are small and measurement is uncertain.
(1) Global Urban Observatory, Slums of the World: The face of urban poverty in the new millennium?, New York 2003, p.25.
(2) Various surveys as mentioned in Martin P. Brockerhoff, “An Urbanizing World”, Population Bulletin, Vol. 55, No. 3, September 2000, www.prb.org
(3) Source: Homeless-International, Coventry, UK.