The problem of slums
The dictionary definition describes slums as quarters of the poor in a big city . It seems useless to look for another, broader and more comprehensive definition of this concept, because depending on the continent, country or city slums differ greatly from one another. There is a list of distinctive features, however, out of which at least two will be true for every poverty quarter. They are: no access to basic sanitation and unhygienic living conditions, illegal, makeshift buildings, dangerous location, overpopulation, poverty and social exclusion, diseases and crime.
According to the UN statistics , nowadays over one billion people live in slums (one third of all city dwellers) and if no effective measures are taken, in thirty years’ time this number will double. The main cause of this disconcerting phenomenon seems to be the rapid urbanization, the rising birth rate and mass migration of people from the country to cities. In the developing countries the living conditions between the country and the city are incomparable, thus the huge waves of migrants move to cities seeking “better tomorrow”. Many of them, however, are not able to meet high cost of living, and the local authorities do not act adequately to alleviate the dire situation (e.g. building inexpensive council houses). Migrants are forced, then, to look for shelter themselves or to build them on their own from scratch.
To find a solution to the slums question is anything but easy. Many local authorities representatives ignore the problem purposefully or assume from the very beginning that there is no solution. In a few cases there were attempts to solve the slum problem in a very fast, cheap and unethical way, namely through physical annihilation of “problematic parts of the city” (and obtaining land for prospect developers). Such actions can lead only remove the results of the problem but leave the causes untouched. At the international level, the proposition of addressing the slum question can be found in the UN Millennium Declaration signed in 2000 by 190 countries. Both the developed and developing countries obliged themselves to meet eight Millennium Development Goals by 2015. The most significant provisions regarding slums can be found in Goal One (“To halve the proportion of people whose income is less than one dollar a day”) and in Goal Seven (“Halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation” and “by 2020, to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers”). There are high expectations about local initiatives, both of local NGOs and also the municipal authorities and slum dwellers themselves.
1. United Nations Human Settlement Programme, 2003 – Global Report on Human Settlements 2003: The challenge of slums, UN-Habitat
2. KOPALIŃSKI W.,1994- Słownik wyrazów obcych i zwrotów obcojęzycznych, Wiedza powszechna, Warszawa