A Most Unpleasant, but True, Definition of a Slum Area

Most descriptions of slum areas, regardless of where you look, primarily address the spaces and the services. Science Direct, however, has added a human element that, I believe, is essential to grasp a more robust understanding of slums, slum conditions, and slum dwellers.

A slum is a residential area with substandard housing that is poorly serviced and/or overcrowded, and therefore unhealthy, unsafe, and socially undesirable . . . The term slum is culturally defined and pejorative, with social as well as physical connotations. It is usually applied by outsiders.”1

The Science Direct definition exposes the true nature of slums and slum life when it explains that the term is usually applied by people outside of the slum area and is almost always used in a pejorative, social, and cultural sense. That insight will serve us well later in this report as we seek to understand better the people who live in the slums.

Global slum distribution

It seems as though the slums of India get the most media attention. This may be due primarily to a combination of the overall slum population across the nation and the number of humanitarian aid agencies that are raising awareness of the needs of the country’s slum dwellers. The popularity of the movie, “Slumdog Millionaire,” certainly gained the attention of millions of moviegoers who had never been exposed to life in slums.

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.”

Globally, 2 billion people were without waste collection services, and 3 billion people lacked access to controlled waste disposal facilities, according to data collected between 2010 and 2018.3

Learn more about Another Word for Slums

1 “Slums.” Science Direct. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/social-sciences/slums.
2 “Empowering Women in South Asia’s Slums: The Challenges of Environmental Degradation.” Grow Research Series. http://grow.research.mcgill.ca/publications/working-papers/gwp-2018-17.pdf.
3 “Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities.” UN Sustainable Development Goals. https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2019/goal-11/.