The dangers of living in slums are innumerable. If left unchecked, it poses an extended risk to the rest of the society.
Poverty has long been associated with the rural masses in developing countries, which have rightly been the targets of development and food assistance programs. With the growth of cities, poverty is increasingly becoming visible among city dwellers to the extent that many urban poor live in absolute poverty.
There are people who have lived in slums and shanty towns all their lives where life can never be easy for anyone. There are also people who thrive on little or no income and live in Slums. I sometimes wonder how people manage to live in such places of the lowest level of degradation and abject poverty without any infrastructure at all and still learn to survive years of untold hardship.
As people from the slums roam around the cities the slums are situated looking for opportunities, they are denied basic rights from the Government such as health care. They are technically not classed as citizens, probably seen as miscreants or you may want to refer to them as ‘society rejects’. For this reason they most likely have no access to basic health care and are offered little or no security from the police force, instead they are subjected to intimidation and brutality from the same.
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UN Habitat estimates that there are currently 924 million slum dwellers in the world, making up one third of the global urban population. This number could grow to 1.5 billion by 2020 unless a significant health and infrastructure interventions and pro-poor housing and land tenure policies are undertaken. The poor are the fastest growing population in urban areas. A quick look at the absolute numbers of urban poor populations living in the developing region reveals a challenge of staggering proportion.
As a result, African’s cities, already facing significant challenges to targeting these populations with services, will face a greater burden in the coming years. Sixty percent of the world’s slums are in Asia. In absolute numbers, Asian slum dwellers outnumber those of any other region, with about 550 million people living in Asian slums. Africa follows with 187 million urban slum residents (UN Habitat 2003).
Urban poverty has many facets that need to be considered such as housing as well as levels of income and consumption. Poverty is conventionally defined in terms of incomes that are inadequate to permit the purchase of necessities, including food and safe water in sufficient quantity. In such populations, housing/shelter may be of poor quality, overcrowded or insecure. Inadequate provision of public infrastructure (piped water, sanitation, drainage) can increase health burdens.
Another factor is the lack of voice within the political systems that keep the concerns of the poor from being heard. Information on the health of the urban poor is increasingly becoming unavailable. It is showing large disparities between wealthier and poorer socio-economic groups for such indicators as child mortality, disease morbidity or the burden of illness, wasting and stunting.
In some cases, data show that the health of children in urban slums is worse than their rural counterparts, and that the urban poor suffer disproportionately from environmental and infectious illnesses, diarrheal disease, malnutrition, respiratory illnesses, tuberculosis, neonatal and maternal mortality, HIV/AIDS among others. Key determinants of ill health among the urban poor are lack of clean water, sanitation, and crowding.
Solid waste disposal, substandard housing, and exclusion from health and other services exacerbate the situation. The most vulnerable are the children, women and people whose immune systems are compromised are the most affected. Infectious diseases such as measles, tuberculosis and cholera spread quickly in crowded slums. Infectious disease knows no boundary. Children living in urban slums are extra-vulnerable. It is likely that poverty-related differences in children’s health are due, in part, to differences in access to services. If poor households have worse access to sanitation and clean water, children in those households may be at greater risk of exposure to communicable diseases, in particular diarrheal diseases.
Also, alcoholism is one of the biggest problems of slum life. In slums, Men find it easier and cheaper to buy alcohol than food and it takes away the pain of hunger. It is for this reason that many residents opt to buy alcohol instead. Thankfully, this problem is not rife in children; however they often face the knock on effect of alcohol such as abuse.
In summary, with poor sanitation and close living quarters, sickness and disease is rife in slum living. Infection spreads quickly and this can prove fatal in the case of the young and weak. Misinformed adults readily give children in the slums tobacco to chew which can lead to under lying health problems.
Furthermore, children living in the slums have little or no education. Any child from the slums who is accepted into school will often choose to work for money instead of attending.
Honestly, humans should not be subjected to life in the slum because I see no difference in such life and that obtainable in the wilds. In fact I will prefer the wilds than living in slums.
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