5 Largest Slums in the World
Here is the list of the five largest slums in the world. Contrary to popular belief, India is neither home to the world’s largest slum nor is it or any other South Asian nation among the top 15 countries where urban residents are most likely to live in slums.1 Mumbai’s Dharavi slum has been cited by some, with an unexpected hint of pride, as the largest in the world. Even with 1,000,000 residents, it is reportedly outsized by at least four others:2
- Mogadishu, Somalia, with 1,500,000
- Manshiet, Egypt, with 1,500,000
- Orangi Town, Pakistan, with 2,400,0003
- Kiberia, Kenya, with 2,500,000
Yet another source4 identified Manila, Philippines, as home to 4,000,000 slum dwellers. On the other hand, the Borgen Project claims that Neza-Chalco-Itza near Mexico City also has a population of 4,000,000.
Measuring the population of a slum area can be nearly impossible. This is especially true when attempting to capture the number of people living in informal or unregistered settlements. The populations tend to be transient and fluid, especially where residents do not own the land on which they have pitched their tent or other temporary dwelling. Many lack both personal and property-connected identification.
Population estimates may also differ based on the measuring entity’s determined geographic area of a slum. Some entities may include the population of a single slum neighborhood. Others may combine slums adjacent to or within a city. Yet others may refer collectively to all the slums of a particular town when estimating the total population.
By way of illustration, one report in 2019 included India’s Dharavi as only a portion of the slums of the state of Maharashtra. By reporting the slum population collectively for the entire state, the report claimed a slum population of 19,000,000.5 While that makes for an incomparably large slum population, this author considers it unfair to hint that one of the country’s wealthiest and most developed states is one of the largest slums in the world.
Likelihood of slums
Having identified where the largest slums are reported to exist, an understanding of slums would be incomplete without knowing which nations have the most significant portion of slum residents as a percentage of their population. These percentages were last updated in March 2019.6
The World Bank data indicates there is a shortage of over 38 million housing units in the South Asian region, not counting housing in need of repair or replacement.2 The report adds that “For the five most populous countries in the region – India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nepal, in that order – the number of urban residents below the national poverty line ranges from about one in eight in Pakistan to more than one in four in Afghanistan.”
|Country||Slum Dwellers as a Percentage of the Population|
|Central African Republic||93%|
|Sao Tome and Principe||87%|
|Democratic Republic of Congo||75%|
Note that each of these nations, except Haiti, is on the African continent. The breadth of poverty in these countries is difficult to comprehend. In each, more than two-thirds of the entire population live in slum conditions. The extent of slum population evidenced by these horrifying percentages is so far outside of the current realm of the American experience that it is difficult, at best, to fully comprehend or even begin to imagine the condition that is the subject of this document.
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1 “15 Countries Where City Dwellers are Most Likely to Live in Slums.” World Atlas. https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/15-countries-where-city-dwellers-are-most-likely-to-live-in-slums.html.
2 “Largest Slums in the World.” MSN. https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/featured/largest-slums-in-the-the-world/ss-AA6QUf6#image=8.
3 “The World’s Largest Slums: Dharavi, Kibera, Khayelitsha & Neza.” Habitat for Humanity. https://www.habitatforhumanity.org.uk/blog/2017/12/the-worlds-largest-slums-dharavi-kibera-khayelitsha-neza/.
4 “Manila: Inside world’s largest slum where 4 million people live in squalid shacks.” The Sun UK. https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/9288134/worlds-largest-slum-four-million-people-squalid-shacks-manila/.
5 “Largest Slums in the World.” MSN. https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/featured/largest-slums-in-the-the-world/ss-AA6QUf6#image=13.
6 Wee, Rolando Y. “Countries with the Most Slums.” WorldAtlas. https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/15-countries-where-city-dwellers-are-most-likely-to-live-in-slums.html. Accessed October 16, 2019.