Global Slums

Unveiling the Hidden Realities of Global Slums: Insights into Impoverished Communities

The World Urban campaign shared valuable insights into the experience of living in impoverished communities back in 2016.[1] lack of recognition from governance frameworks against those who live in slums, global discrimination, limited access to land and property, tenure insecurity, and the constant threat of eviction. Moreover, they struggle with precarious livelihoods, high exposure to disease and violence, and increased vulnerability to the adverse impacts of climate change and natural disasters due to their geographical location.

Impoverished vulnerable groups are particularly affected: women are more likely to have lower education levels and face high rates of teen pregnancies.

Children in slums are exposed to a range of adverse conditions, while unskilled youth find themselves excluded from economic and employment opportunities. People with disabilities suffer due to the dilapidated infrastructure in slums, and migrants, refugees, and internally displaced persons face additional vulnerability and marginalization due to their uncertain status and lack of resources.

By delving deeper, we can gain a comprehensive understanding of the classification of impoverished communities, and the diverse challenges of slum communities worldwide. Let’s explore some examples:

Kibera: Overcoming Sanitation Challenges

In Nairobi, Kenya, slums occupy only six percent of the total residential land area, yet 60 percent of the city’s residents call this small fraction home. Sanitation poses a significant problem in Kibera. Research conducted by Samantha Winter, a post-doctoral fellow at Rutgers University, revealed that a third of women in the area continue to defecate in the open during daylight hours. Even when public facilities are available, some choose to do so out of concerns for personal safety and privacy. Others lack the means to pay the fee required to use a public facility.[2]

The Borgen Project describes Kibera as one of the world’s largest and most impoverished slums, where overcrowding, unsanitary housing conditions, alcohol abuse, and crime are everyday realities. Open sewers are common, and multiple families often share a single latrine. When the latrine becomes full, boys are employed to empty and clean it, often dumping the waste into the river.[3]

Orangi Town: Informal Jobs and High Density

Karachi, Pakistan’s largest impoverished community, is characterized by its high population density of over 70,000 people per square mile.[4] More than 80 percent of its residents have informal jobs,[5] reflecting the challenges faced by those living in poverty-stricken areas.

Manshiet: Garbage City and Livelihood Struggles

In Cairo, Egypt, the largest slum is known as Manshiet or “Garbage City.” Here, residents often resort to sleeping in graveyards when other abandoned spaces are not available.[6] Their primary occupation revolves around scavenging through piles of trash, determining what items are sellable and what are not. Families specialize in scavenging specific types of waste products, earning a living by transporting desirable items to recycling clients.[7]

Neza-Chalco-Itza: Crime and Marginalization

This Mexico City slum, Neza-Chalco-Itza, has gained notoriety for its extremely high crime rate, largely influenced by the presence of criminal gangs or “cholos.”[8] The prevalence of crime further exacerbates the challenges faced by residents living in poverty-stricken areas.

Cité Soleil: Poverty and Sanitation Crisis in Haiti

Located near Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Cité Soleil is considered one of the poorest and most dangerous areas in the Western Hemisphere. This sprawling slum lacks proper sewer systems, relying on a poorly maintained open canal system for sewage disposal. Half of the houses in Cité Soleil are made of scavenged materials, and an estimated 60 to 70 percent of houses lack access to a latrine.[9] The area grapples with endemic unemployment, illiteracy, inadequate public services, unsanitary conditions, and widespread crime and violence.[10]

Hong Kong Cage Dwellers: Extreme Living Conditions

In Hong Kong, the plight of cage and cubicle dwellers represents the extreme living conditions found in some impoverished communities.[11] Thousands of individuals, including men, women, and children, endure squalid, cramped living spaces with only a few square feet of personal area. Sharing a cage with multiple individuals for several decades is not uncommon, highlighting the severe lack of affordable housing and dire living conditions faced by these residents.

Environmental Challenges in South Asia

Identified impoverished communities in South Asia, represents the environmental challenges prevalent in many impoverished areas.[12] Neighborhoods like this symbolizes the grime and waste contributing to the pollution in the cities of South Asian countries. Residents endure the impact of polluted water from sewers during the rainy season, resulting in health issues and diminished quality of life. Efforts to address environmental degradation and improve waste management systems are critical to ensuring a cleaner and healthier environment for South Asia and other communities grappling with similar challenges. Implementing recycling programs, promoting sustainable practices, and raising awareness about environmental conservation can pave the way for a greener and more sustainable future for impoverished communities.

Understanding the conditions faced by impoverished communities worldwide is essential for developing targeted interventions and sustainable solutions. By addressing issues such as inadequate housing, sanitation, unemployment, crime, pollution, and environmental degradation, we can contribute to the upliftment and empowerment of individuals living in impoverished conditions. Collaboration among governments, non-profit organizations, and individuals is crucial for implementing effective measures that promote sustainable development, social inclusion, and improved living standards in these marginalized communities.

Slums across Asia house tens of millions of individuals, residing in cramped one-room shanties and grappling with the challenges of meager wages. When jobs are scarce, some turn to desperate means such as begging, scavenging, or engaging in prostitution to sustain themselves. The lack of proper toilet facilities becomes a source if illnesses, while garbage scattered in the alleys contributes to unsanitary conditions and even more health risks. Get involved by giving towards GFA World’s slum ministry. Through your partnership, lives can be been transformed, families helped, and individuals encounter the life-changing power of Christ’s love.

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[1] “Slum Almanac 2015-2016 | UN-Habitat.” n.d.
[2] “Millions of Women in Kenyan Slums Avoid Using Available Toilets. We Need to Pay Attention to This.” ScienceAlert. November 21, 2018.
[3] “Kibera: An in Depth Look at Africa’s Largest Slum.” 2019. BORGEN. June 2, 2019.  
[4] Wikipedia Contributors. 2019. “Orangi Town.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. April 4, 2019.  
[5] “Largest Slums in the the World.” n.d. MSN. Accessed June 7, 2023.  
[6] Ibid.
[7] Wikipedia Contributors. 2019. “Manshiyat Naser.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. May 31, 2019.
[8] Wikipedia Contributors. 2020. “Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. September 4, 2020.
[9] Rosensweig, Fred. 1996. “ACTIVITY REPORT No. 21 a Plan for CDS to Establish a Water and Sanitation District in Cité Soleil, Haiti and Monitoring Visit Report.”
[10] “Haiti’s Struggle.” 2006. April 18, 2006.
[11] “Squalid Living Conditions of Hong Kong’s Poor Population.” Journeyman Pictures. Accessed September 6, 2022.
[12] Afp. 2018. “The Indian Town Completely Swamped by a Sea of Garbage.” Mail Online. June 4, 2018.