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date: 27 June 2022

The Implications of Informal Settlement Upgrading Programs for Access to Water, Sanitation, and Public Healthlocked

The Implications of Informal Settlement Upgrading Programs for Access to Water, Sanitation, and Public Healthlocked

  • David SatterthwaiteDavid SatterthwaiteInternational Institute for Environment and Development
  •  and Alice SverdlikAlice SverdlikInternational Institute for Environment and Development

Summary

Most cities in low- and middle-income countries have substantial proportions of their population living in informal settlements—sometimes up to 60% or more. These also house much of the city’s low-income workforce; many informal settlements also concentrate informal economic activities. These settlements usually lack good provision for water, sanitation, and other essential services.

The conventional government responses were to bulldoze them or ignore them. But from the 1960s, another approach became common—upgrading settlements to provide missing infrastructure (e.g., water pipes, sewers, drains). In the last 20 years, community-driven upgrading has become increasingly common. Upgrading initiatives are very diverse. At their best, they produce high-quality and healthy living conditions and services that would be expected to greatly reduce illness, injury or disablement, and premature death. But at their worst, upgrading schemes provide a limited range of improvements do nothing to reduce the inhabitants’ exclusion from public services.

There is surprisingly little research on upgrading’s impact on health. One reason is the very large number of health determinants at play. Another is the lack of data on informal settlement populations.

Much of the innovation in upgrading is in partnerships between local governments and organizations formed by informal settlement residents, including slum/shack dweller federations that are active in over 30 nations.

Community-driven processes can deal with issues that are more difficult for professionals to resolve—including mapping and enumerations. Meanwhile, local government can provide the connections to all-weather roads, water mains, sewers, and storm drains into which communities can connect.

Subjects

  • Environmental Health
  • Public Health Policy and Governance

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