Slums, Favelas, Ghettos and Shanty Towns: a Global Epidemic Essay Example

Pages: 10 (3441 words) Published: April 23, 2012
Slums, Favelas, Ghettos and Shanty Towns: A Global Epidemic

What is a slum?

Tenements, shanty-towns, ghettos, and Hoovervilles are all terms that have historical and social meanings that help to give us insight on what people consider slums globally. The term slum is often used interchangeably with similar words in local contexts to describe varying types of informal settlements. Often these informal settlements, herein called to as ‘slums’, refer to semi-legal or unsanctioned subdivisions of land within the urban sphere (The Challenge of Slums 197). One can find slums in one form or another in most parts of the world. Whether they be Brazilian Favela, shanty towns, gecekoudus in Turkey, or the various refugee camps that dot the globe due to conflicts, war or famine. The word slum became part of the modern English lexicon sometime int he 1820’s in London. The word was used to describe very poor quality housing that lacked proper sanitary and was in an area prone to crime and health epidemics. Over 190 years later and conditions have barely changed, the difference is that slums have popped up all over the world. They can be found in cities across the developing and developed world. In fact, as our world is rapidly urbanizing, what is primarily being urbanized is poverty (Ooi, Phua i28).

According to UN-Habitat a slum neighborhood is a run-down area of a city characterized by substandard housing and squalor and lacking in tenure security. Rapid population growth coupled with poverty leads to slum formation especially with the addition of one of the following conditions; unclear land-tenure, lack of affordable housing, and/or poor land-use policies. More specifically a slum household is defined by UN-Habitat as a group of individuals living under the same roof in an urban area who lack one or more of the following: Durable housing of a permanent nature that protects against extreme climate conditions. Sufficient living space which means not more than three people sharing the same room. Easy access to safe water in sufficient amounts at an affordable price. Access to adequate sanitation in the form of a private or public toilet shared by a reasonable number of people. Security of tenure that prevents forced evictions.

These criterion give us a broad understanding of the definition of a slum household, but it is important to note that not all low-income settlements suffer the same level of depravation. Conditions may vary widely even within the same slum (UN-Habitat). Slums are a relative concept, what is acceptable in one location may qualify as sub-standard in another city even within the same country context. Additionally, the United Nations has divided slums into two broader categories, slums of hope or slums of despair to indicate that outcomes for residents in slum communities varies widely as well. Slums of hope: progressing settlements which are characterized by newer self-built structures, usually illegal, that are in or have been recent thorough a process of development, consolidation and improvements. Slums of despair: ‘declining’ neighborhoods, in which environmental conditions and domestics services are undergoing a process of degeneration (The Challenge of Slums 9).

Historical Origins of Slums: 29 Case Studies by the United Nations
With a summary understanding of what slums are, one needs to understand how they form. With rapid population growth slums tend to develop. In nearly all cases, slum formation can be traced back to one or more of the following primary triggers (United Nations): Rural-to-urban migration

Natural Growth
Combinations of natural and migratory growth
population displacement following armed conflicts or internal strife and violence.

These factors play large roles in slum growth across the world. Cities in the Philippines have seen the growth primarily to the push of migrants from rural to urban areas due to drought and low farm productivity...
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