Environmental issues for people living in extreme poverty in urban areas are just as important in their constraining effects as for those in rural areas. There are nearly one billion people living in slums across the world. They live in appalling conditions often with waste and excrement in open sewers that boost the spread of deadly diseases.
This video shows us a project supported by UK charity Christian Aid that cleaned up a slum area, and provided much needed sanitation, improving the health of the whole community. Because the control of the project was in the hands of the community, it meant that they could direct the funds towards what would most enhance their lives, and then, once the project had been set up the income was spent according to the wishes of the whole community to further enhance their environment and find them a new home away from the control of landlords.
It’s thanks to projects like this that UN-Habitat recently reported that 227 million people have moved out of slum conditions since 2000.
But, despite this progress, the influx of people to the cities has meant that, on a practical level we have not made a difference to the numbers of people living in these conditions – the total number of slum-dwellers increasing from 776.7 million in 2000 to some 827.6 million in 2010.
People migrate into cities and end up in slums for many reasons – foremost amongst them looking for work and escaping discrimination or conflict. We’re unlikely to see a change to this trend, so to improve conditions and prevent even more people from being forced into life in the slums, we need to work on both political and economic stability as well as carrying on the excellent work that is improving access to water, sanitation and better housing. We can do our bit to help change things by campaigning for change in the politics of our own countries as well as donating to charities that work in slums.