A planet full of slums
Today, around 828 million people live in one of the 200 thousand shanty towns worldwide. Around 61 percent of all 'slum dwellers' live in Asia. 26 percent live in Africa and 13 percent in Latin America; every day their numbers increase. Of the 1,4 billion people who are joining up to the year 2030, 96 percent will be born in a slum. Today, one out of seven global citizens live in a slum. In 2050 it will be one out of three. Many families in slums do not have enough clean water and do not have access to decent sanitary facilities. At any time, slum dwellers can be dispelled from their homes. In general, their houses are poorly constructed or maintained. Because of that, they are vulnerable to storm and rain. Usually these houses are small, housing three or more people per room. A life in a slum is not easy. In a mega city like Dhaka two-thirds of the drinking water is con-taminated. The air in slums is dirtier than in city centres or in the countryside. In African slums, twice as many people are infected with HIV than in the villages. Slum residents in the Middle East are at a higher risk of a terrorist attack. In slums, the police is often corrupt and doesn’t dare to intervene in violent incidents. In slums epidemics such as ebola spread rap-idly. According to some, the urbanisation of the Third World is an 'emerging humanitarian disaster'.
Why then, are 60 million people leaving their villages each year for a future in the slums? Don’t they know what to expect? They do. But for people from the countryside a life in the slum can be an enormous step forward. Life in the slum is hard, but life in the rural area is undoubtedly harder. While the rest of the world is changing rapidly, life in the villages seems to stand still. In the villages you will not find secondary or tertiary education. Often there is no power, let alone internet. Women are always the poorest, they work in the fields and do virtually all domestic work. Women take care of the children, walk far to fetch clean water, and enjoy the least education. Moving to the city is quite a liberation for many women.
Most people in an African or Asian villages are forced to live a life as a farmer. Even though he or she would prefer to be a welder, a web designer or a doctor. 'The slum gives people opportunities that are inconceivable in rural areas’, says tourist guide Saulos Jali in this web-documentary. 'In the village we could earn nothing’, says the paralyzed beggar Mor-ris Maurice. ‘Many villagers would love to move to Ndirande’ prostitute Thokozani thinks. Cook and businesswoman Filesi Panja states she never could have started a company in the rural area. ‘People over there don’t even understand what I am doing here’. For the young men who are running multi-media company Flashblink, the countryside is a place of ex-otisme, where once their grandparents lived. ‘In the village you won’t find electricity, let alone internet’, Tracy Thungaye says. ‘I really wouldn’t know what we could do there’
If we want to understand slums, we must not compare them with suburbs in the rich part of the world. We must compare them with the rural areas where the slum dwellers come from. If we want to understand slums, it is better to choose the perspective of a young Indian or Kenyan peasant woman. ‘For the young person in an Indian village, the call of Mumbai isn't just about money. It's also about freedom’, Suketa Mehta writes in an article with the pro-grammatic name 'Dirty, crowded, rich and wonderful'.
© Ralf Bodelier, Manilla, Philippines, 2011
© Thomas Jessica, Lahore, Pakistan, 2005. Via WikiMedia Commons