Sarah's Insights: Urban Poor

In anticipation of Mothers Day, Save the Children's 16th annual State of the Worlds Mothers report was released this week. The focus of this year's report is the urban poor. For the purposes of the report, the urban poor are defined as the poorest 20% and the urban rich are defined by the richest 20%. An assessment of mothers and children wellbeing (including mothers and children's health, educational status, economic status and political status) revealed the following 5 best and worst ranking countries:

Best 5: 1-Norway, 2-Finland, 3-Iceland, 4-Denmark, 5-Sweden (Canada was 20th)

Worst 5: 1: Haiti/Sierra Leone (tied), 2-Guinea-Bissau, 3-Chad, 4-Cote d'Ivoire, 5-Gambia

Huge disparities between the rich and poor in urban areas. In most countries, poor urban children are almost twice as likely to die than rich urban children before their 5th birthday. In Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ghana, Kenya, India, Nigeria, Madagascar, Peru, Rwanda, Vietnam and Zimbabwe poor urban children are 3 to 5 times more likely to die before their 5th birthday. Contributing to those statistics are disparities in access to health care and prenatal care and skilled birth attendance.

Growing up I seemed to be impressed with the idea that the poor in Africa lived in mud huts within rural villages, far from access to crucial services. Increasingly though, people are moving to urban areas in the hopes of improving their quality of life. And yet, somehow, this doesn't happen and, as the report details, their quality of life actually decreases. One third of urban residents in the developing world resides in a slum – about 860 million people. In sub-Saharan Africa this number jumps to almost two thirds.

Slums vary from country to country but most have unsafe housing, little to no sanitation or access to clean water, unreliable electricity and few health care services.

A 2015 interview conducted by Save the Children with a woman named Veronica details the complexities of life in an urban slum:

Afraid to Leave Home: Life in Nairobi’s Kibera slum is especially hard for women. The threat of attack and robbery are constant, so women rarely leave their homes after 10 p.m. and are cautious about using communal areas like toilets and showers. In the past few months, Kibera’s dangers have affected Veronica and her family more than once. Veronica lives in a one-room mud house with her husband, their 4-year-old son, her new baby daughter, and a 15-year-old girl who she has taken in and treats as her own daughter. Earlier this year, a relative of Veronica’s was assaulted while she was taking a shower near Veronica’s home. She was afraid to report the incident and did not tell Veronica until several days later, so they did not take her to a health facility. Veronica recently gave birth to a baby girl named Esther. She planned to go to the hospital to deliver her baby, but her water broke unexpectedly late in the evening and she was afraid to leave home to go to the clinic. “Even if a woman is pregnant and walking with her husband ... they might have attacked me or my husband,” said Veronica. “I wasn’t going to risk that. At night it is not a safe place at all.” Veronica is fortunate that a community health volunteer named Moira was brave enough to come to her home that night and help her deliver the baby. “I was so relieved she came. I did not like giving birth at home at all. I was scared I would bleed too much. I knew I was anemic and I was worried the baby would die.” The next day, Moira took Veronica to the hospital so that she and the baby could be checked over. Veronica was discharged after 12 hours and required to pay a fee for the services. She did not have the money, so the hospital retained her husband’s ID card as assurance of payment. In the end, Moira paid the fee for them.
They are still paying her back”

Leaving a rural area for an urban area that offers health services and education and infrastructure seems like a good plan, except it doesn't always guarantee access to those resources. The stark contrast between the rich and poor residents is visually represented in Nairobi, Kenya.

In the Kibera slum, the largest urban slum in Africa where almost a million people live on less than $1 per day, a set of train tracks run along one of it's borders. On the other side of those train tracks? The Royal Nairobi Golf Course.

Link to full report

 Sarah lives in Northern Ontario with her family. Sarah and her husband have four children, and one grandson. She is an avid reader and learner.  In 2012, Sarah launched JustOne with Krista and travelled to Kenya, Uganda and South Africa together. Sarah has a blog we love to read called "Recipe for Messiness" that is about finding beauty amidst our messy lives. 

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published