Improving Slums

We had a debate in our geography class last year about which issues were most important to resolve when upgrading slums. We were each assigned a particular aspect of the worst-case situation to argue as a priority to resolve, and asked to come up with some means to solve it. That’s why this might come off as very poorly structured (even by my standards). I’m also mentioning that explanation as I’m not sure where my notes on healthcare measures went, and this is likely to be updated once I’ve found (or remade) them.

Physical Infrastructure

  • 84% of houses have no water supply. Illegal water sellers are expensive, and many people take water from rivers.
  • Roads are impermeable (leading to issues with erosion, flooding downstream and others)
  • Illegal electricity (in many slums) can lead to electrical fires
  • 90% of people in slums (worldwide) die of disease
  • Water can be purified using plastic bottles
  • Kenya has projects for community based solar power to help improve the local electrical supply
  • The Green Exchange program (where waste is exchanged for cash or food parcels. The waste is used for various purposes depending on location. In Curitiba, Brazil, it is reused for other purposes. The exact waste can vary with location, too. It helps prevent malnutrition and any issues that could arise from a dirty environment.)

Social Infrastructure (mostly referring to Rio de Janeiro)

  • 880 million people live in slums globally.
  • Complexo de Alemão is trying to reduce crime rates by building 2 primary schools, 2 creches, a technical college and a library
  • Complexo has 70,000 people with insufficient education and healthcare
  • A cable car was built to transport people from the slums to Rio’ center. This has helped unemployment rates. The stations are cheap, and have lead to greater educational, job, and healthcare options.
  • Cidade de Deus healthcare clinic was set up in the slums
  • Olympic values were taught to children; 168 schools, 100,000 children
  • Favela painting is a practice to occupy people’s time productively. The favelas are made to look better by occupying local people to paint buildings in bright colours and patterns. The normal buildings are often bare brick and mud. Very drab environments are bad for people’s emotional health, so painting the favelas in bright shades is improving people’s wellbeing.
  • There has been an 80% drop from 30,000 gun crimes per year once gangs were removed.


  • 40% live in shanty towns
  • People used to just be used to worse areas
  • Now people are provided with material
  • There are housing projects to remove the shanty areas and replace them with proper housing
  • 1/3 of people in poor cities live in self-built houses
  • The Bairro project, in Rociña, Rio de Janeiro, aims to increase the average size of slum homes to 20m^2 and to widen the main streets.
  • Barra de Tijica, Brazil, is a new town located through a mountain from Rio, providing new housing in 10-30 storey blocks, and is now home to 180,000 people.
  • Almost all the houses in Rociña are made out of concrete and brick, contributing to 100s of businesses
  • NGOs are working to improve the situation
  • Oxfam are working to improve the lives of 100 million people living in slums worldwide
  • Some slums still have no provision of basic services.


  • Oxfam provides water tanks for affordable use in many slums
  • Most people use informal water supplies
  • in Hima, Peru, there was a census including types of businesses, which lead to improvements in encouraging foreign businesses to buy goods from slum workers.
  • Does this actually provide them with enough money to escape poverty?
  • People in slums can enter themselves in the yellow pages, which has been quite successful in Brazil and Peru.
  • However, businesses in slums are unregulated by the police, and are unprotected by the police, in many areas


  • 4.3 million cases of cholera worldwide
  • Most people produce about 300g of waste a day
  • 2.4 million people in Nairobi are living in slums
  • Composite farms gather waste in biodegradable bags, which, after 6-8 weeks, can be used as manure, leading to better soil fertility, better farming, and more food and income
  • Bioplants can be made in Kibera. Many people use the same latrine. The methane produced from this can be harvested and then resold as cooking gas, which helps kill off germs in water and food
  • Umende has 57 bio centers, and has collected 60,000 kg of waste
  • Nepal has 2.8 million people living in slums. In Kathmandu. 10,000 of the 31,000 slum dwellers are waste collectors. The informal sector work is often exploited.
  • There is an Umbrella Group which workers can register with t monitor them and give vocational training
  • The Green Exchange program in Nepal has led to 4,000 waste worker jobs, with 50% of the beneficiaries being women.

Kibera, Nairobi- Part II

Solutions for improving the slums

Low cost flats:

  • 770  families rehoused
  • Inhabitants were involved in the planning
  • Running water, toilets and electricity were integrated into the plans
  • Lower crime rates than the slums
  • Gives pride in people and the community
  • Funded by the government, charities and private loans
  • Making homes permanent, as the shanty settlers have no right to the land they live on

A charity (Practical Action from the UK) has been developed to make low-cost roofing tiles for local people to use for roofing. Two main water pipes have been provided by the Kenyan government and the World Bank. Medical facilities are provided by charities, training locals. The UN Settlement Program provides affordable electricity at 300 Kenyan shillings per shack. Toilets and wash blocks were built and cess pits are regularly emptied. A Bio Gas Station has been built to manage human waste.

The UK government has funded sanitation projects and a UK charity has sponsored a community clinic called “soap box”. The NCC (Nairobi City Council) have introduced a market stall project to create employment, but people require primary credit to start their stalls. A primary school has been built for the slum for children that have been introduced by CFK (Carolina for Kibera, a charity run by the University of Carolina). Comic Relief supports the work in Kibera, particularly with AIDs.


KENSUP has a goal of improving the livelihood of 5.3 million slum dwellers in Kenya by 2020. The program started in 2001, and by 2003 a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Kenyan government and UN-HABITAT for a strategy for implementing this.

Kibera, Nairobi- Part I

Stat regarding the slum of Kibera, Nairobi

  • 44% of households have regular incomes
  • 80% of regular earners are classified as “poor” or in poverty
  • 70% of those employed are in wage employment
  • Half of all households live on less than US$10.50 per day
  • 50% unemployed
  • 40% cannot afford on a daily basis to buy enough food for their families
  • Population densities can exceed 90,000 people per km^2
  • 60% of Nairobi’s workers live in slums
  • Infant mortality rate is 200/1000
  • 95% of households have inadequate sanitation
  • 83% have a water source within 100m of their homes
  • 75 people can share a single latrine
  • The Nairobi City Council can collect 5% of the solid waste per day
  • 20 million people in Kenya have malaria
  • AIDS leads to 500 deaths daily in Kenya


Nairobi Functional Zones

In 1899  a railway was built between Mombasa, on the coast, and Lake Victoria in Kenya, reaching a river which the Massai called enairobi. The surrounding land was swampy, uninhabited and infested with malaria. Despite these seemingly unfavourable conditions, a railway station was built and, less than a century later, the settlement at Nairobi had grown to 1.5 million people. The current functional zones reflect Nairobi’s legacy.

  • Immediately North West of the CBD are several large areas of open space. This includes several parks, a sports ground and a golf course. The Nairobi National Park is in the South and the Karura forest is in the North.
  • The main industries are formal engineering, chemicals, clothing and food processing. A modern industrial area extends along the airport road and contains many TNCs. The industrial zone grew up bordering the railway line.
  • Wealthy European colonists and later Asian immigrants lived in the ridges of the higher land to the North and West above the malarial swamps. The Westlands forms a secondary core. Many large properties have security guards.
  • The middle-income houses to the South are mostly occupied by those locals in full time employ.
  • Shanty settlements have grown up away from the CBD on otherwise unused land, which means, in Nairobi, along the Ngong river and Mathare river. The largest are along the Mathare and Kibera; it’s estimated 100,000 people live in each.
  • Low income residential borders the shanty settlements; much of it is former shanty settlements to which the council ha added water, sewers and an electricity supply.
  • Self help housing is found in the North East of the city. The council provides basic amenities and cheap building materials. In Dandora, which has 120,000 residents, relatively wealthy people bought plots of land and build houses around courtyards. A tap and toilet is installed in each courtyard and the wealthy owners can sell or rent the unneeded properties.

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