Cover Image
close this bookNational Experiences with Shelter Delivery for the Poorest Groups (HABITAT, 1994, 140 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentFOREWORD
View the documentList of acronyms
View the documentEXECUTIVE SUMMARY
View the documentINTRODUCTION
Open this folder and view contentsI. SHELTER AND THE POOR
Open this folder and view contentsII. HOUSING THE POOR
Open this folder and view contentsIII. SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
View the documentBIBLIOGRAPHY


Most, if not all, developing countries experience rates of urban population growth far above their national population growth. The degree of urbanization is thus increasing. On average, more than 40 per cent of the population in the developing world are now living in towns and cities. By the year 2000, there will be 16 metropolitan areas in developing countries with more than 10 million inhabitants. Moreover, in most countries urban poverty is increasing more rapidly than rural poverty. It is estimated that by the end of the century, 90 per cent of the poor in Latin America will live in urban areas. The figures for Africa and Asia are expected to reach 40 and 45 per cent respectively (World Bank, 1993a) (see box 1).

Rapid urbanization has outpaced the ability of local authorities and national governments to provide adequate shelter and basic amenities for the urban poor. Large slum and squatter communities live illegally on government and private lands, especially in the big cities. These communities lack or have inadequate provision of water, sanitation, roads, electricity and housing. Overcrowding and environmental degradation are common problems. The poor are often forced to put up their shack on steep erosion-prone slopes, close to overflowing rivers, mosquito-infected wetlands, along railway lines or close to sources of heavy air or water pollution. The health of the poor in these areas is evidently bad (see box 2). Lack of work adds immeasurably to the misery of these people. They live in an abject state where the future is measured day by day in search for food for survival. Every day, they face the risks of diseases, injury and starvation in a harsh and merciless city environment.

Box 1. Third-world slums

“The Third World is characterized by streaks of contrasts in all spheres of life... Mexico City spends vast sums of money to please the eyes of tourists, while a big proportion of its population lives in slums. In Bombay, where perhaps some of the worst slums in the world can be found, the skyline is getting changed by an eruption of skyscrapers of the most modern dimensions... The slum offends the eyes, nose and conscience but it exists all the same... [It] is basically an area of the worst form of struggle for the basic needs of life... Today, in the ninth decade of the twentieth century, which is marked by the most tremendous advancements in the field of science and technology, culminating in multi-billion-dollar excursions into the outer space, the vast mass of humanity is deprived of proper shelter and food. There is therefore something wrong in our basic approach to the problem... the problem of housing is the inevitable consequence of a set-up which treats housing as a commodity. In such a set-up solutions like clearing a few slums or asking landlords to repair shaky buildings, or building a few tenements for the poor will touch only the fringe of the problem. It must be noted that these solutions unhesitatingly take the existing social set-up for granted. Urban renewal programmes based on such assumptions may look logical but they are far away from real answers.”

Source: Desai and Pillai, 1990.

Box 2. Slums and health

“Many health problems affecting poorer groups are associated with overcrowding; they include household accidents, airborne infections, acute respiratory infections, pneumonia, and tuberculosis... The average persons per room is... 4 or more among poorer groups; it is also common for poor households to live in one room... beds are often shared; in the most extreme cases even small rooms are subdivided to allow multiple occupancy... overcrowding ensures that diseases such as tuberculosis, influenza, and meningitis are easily transmitted from one person to another... Acute respiratory infections, the most common of all illnesses, are increasingly recognized as a major cause of mortality and morbidity. Acute bacterial and viral respiratory infections tend to be endemic rather than epidemic, affecting younger groups, and be more prevalent in urban than in rural areas... Poorer groups in developing countries are much more at risk because of the greater proportion of younger age groups, limited health and financial resources, and... limited access to vaccines and antibacterial drugs... A high proportion of people in low-income settlements... have intestinal worms. The scale of the problem can be seen from estimates for hookworm infestation, which suggest that, worldwide, some 700-900 million people are infested and there are 1.5 million cases of disease and 50,000 deaths a year. A survey of 238 slum children in Manila aged 8 months to 15 years found 92 per cent with whipworm, 80 per cent with roundworm, and 10 per cent with hookworm, 84 per cent having at least two species of parasite... Health risks are also increased by the fact that domestic, and on occasion industrial, solid wastes are disposed of in open spaces within residential areas. Lack of sewers... and of site drainage means that pools of contaminated water form close to the shelters and flooding brings additional health problems by overflowing latrines... In urban settlements the extent of ill health and premature death in squatter settlements and other low-income areas in developing countries has certainly been underestimated... Among the most serious psychosocial health problems are depression, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide, child and spouse abuse, delinquency, and target violence... Many social pathologies are associated with poor-quality housing... Many of the physical characteristics of the housing and living environment have a major influence on mental disorder and social pathology through such stressful factors as noise, air, soil, or water pollution, overcrowding, inappropriate design, inadequate maintenance of the physical structure and services, poor sanitation, or a high concentration of specific toxic substances.”

Source: WHO, 1992a.

It is difficult to estimate how many among the 1.6 billion urban dwellers in developing countries live in inadequate housing with little or no provision of water, sanitation and other services. Case studies show that between 30 and 60 per cent of the urban population live in illegal settlements, and in overcrowded and deteriorating tenements (WHO, 1992b). In 1985, WHO estimated that one quarter of the urban population in the developing world had no access to safe water, and that half of the population had no sanitation system to make adequate disposal of their excreta. While there has been considerable progress during the 1980s, these figures understate the numbers inadequately served, according to WHO. Figures for the proportion of people adequately served come from statistics supplied by governments. Governments are known to exaggerate such figures. They may for instance regard a few water taps, with water only for a couple of hours a day, as adequately serving a settlement. Official figures for many of the poorer developing countries indicate that over 80 per cent of the urban population have access to safe water. Local researchers and community workers find it hard to reconcile such a figure with the reality in the urban areas in which they operate.

Vast slums can be found on the outskirts of cities. Government resettlement programmes have contributed to this location of poor people at the city fringe, making the journey to work three to four hours long for workers in the largest cities. In many cases it used to be possible for the poor to cultivate some crops there. This opportunity is important in times of macro-economic recession or individual misfortune on the job market. Today this safety net is fast disappearing, due to increasing population densities in slum settlements and lack of vacant land elsewhere. This factor together with massive under - and unemployment, combined with increasing food prices explain the worsening urban malnutrition found in many developing countries. The poor urban communities in the big cities rank among the most life-threatening and unhealthy living environments that exist. Some 600 million urban residents live in health-threatening houses and conditions characterized by overcrowding and lack of basic services such as piped water, sanitation and health care (WHO, 1992a). In some of the worst illegal settlements one third of the children die before the age of five (Hardoy and others, 1992). Furthermore, inferior housing - both regarding internal conditions of the shelter and the external safety and quality of the neighbourhood, which do not fulfil the social needs of the occupants - have important bearings on mental instability and psychosocial problems (see box 3). “Street children” constitute an urban problem which has received much attention. In Manila, for instance, with three 3 million people living in slums, there are 75,000 street children. During the last four years the number of street children in Nairobi has increased from 16,000 to 25,000. Each of the three major cities in India - Bombay, Calcutta and Delhi - have about 100,000 street children (UNDP, 1993). This phenomenon of street children has been known in parts of Latin America for many years, but is now also appearing in large numbers in cities in Africa and Asia. Boys, but also many girls, “beg, steel and rob, band together, and sleep in the streets, covered with cardboard and plastic sheets” (Gilbert and Gugler, 1992). Several of these problems cannot be solved by human settlements policies, although the right policies can ameliorate many of them. The fundamental problems have their roots in poverty and the structures and processes that create and maintain it. “Such problems demand deliberate decisions that favour the poor and the disadvantaged, and they must be addressed at the level of a nation's development strategy. Human settlements, however, as creators and distributors of wealth, have a vital role to play, as do the policies that underpin their development.” (UNCHS, 1987).

Box 3. Nutrition and mental capability

In a survey of children in Soils, Mexico, it was found that even marginal malnutrition results in deficits in functional performance. Early growth-stunting is accompanied by marked deficits in functional performance. A surprising finding is that neither energy nor protein deficiency is the primary nutritional problem. Poor dietary quality is the main problem, i.e., diets low in vitamins and absorbable minerals. Children with higher-quality diets perform better in cognitive tests and in school and behave in a more interactive, less apathetic manner. The behavioural development of girls is more negatively affected by poor socio-economic conditions than boys, who are less restricted to the house. A general conclusion is that chronic marginal malnutrition may be more prevalent in the developing world than recognized today.

Source: Allen and others, 1992.

The objective of this report is to assess, based on empirical evidence, how the urban poor in the developing world can achieve improved living and housing conditions. The report is primarily based on experiences in shelter provision in India (Ribeiro, 1993; Kundu, 1993), Indonesia (Yoewono, 1993: Herlianto, 1993) and Mexico (Lombera, 1993; Carmona, 1993). Data from Nigeria (Achunine, 1993), as well as some other countries, have also to some extent been used.

Chapter I discusses the relationship between poverty and shelter delivery in general. It includes sections on the particular problems faced by women, the GSS, and concludes with a discussion of concepts. Chapter II presents the actual experiences in India, Indonesia, Mexico and (partly) Nigeria. Chapter III summarizes the lessons that can be drawn from these experiences so that other countries and international donors may improve the process of developing national shelter strategies that also cater for the poor.