The Slums of KiberaKibera, located in Nairobi, Kenya, is one of the most prominent examples of the growing global housing crisis. This crisis is marked by a severe lack of infrastructure that impedes access to essential services like clean water and sanitation, perpetuating a cycle of poverty. According to Habitat for Humanity, at the moment, by the most conservative estimates, about 900 million people live in slums. Slums, by definition, are informal forms of settlement, leaving families to endure crucial living conditions to survive. Housing security is critical in mitigating poverty’s harsh effects, particularly in the sprawling slums of Kibera.

The Rise of Slums and the Impact

By 2030, projections suggest that one in four people worldwide will reside in slums, highlighting the extensive growth of such areas including Khayelitsha in Cape Town, South Africa and Dharavi in Mumbai, India. Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya, stands as the largest, housing 700,000 individuals according to Habitat for Humanity. The slum structures often lack adequate infrastructure, hindering equitable access to clean water, proper sanitation and hygiene. The resulting overcrowding and high-density conditions in these environments foster the rapid spread of airborne diseases caused by poor sanitation, severely impacting residents’ health.

The Kenyan government currently lacks a comprehensive plan to assist the slum dwellers in Kibera. Typically, the government sells this land to landlords, profiting at the expense of the residents. Historically, the government has failed to recognize these settlements officially and has even withheld funding for essential services. Consequently, charities and various nonprofit organizations bear the primary responsibility for addressing these ongoing issues.

Characteristics of Slums

Slums are settlements where housing fails to meet health, safety or building regulations. These areas feature homes that are unsafe and unhealthy, often lacking windows and constructed with dirt floors and materials unsuitable for sturdy walls or roofs. A critical issue within these slums is overcrowding, with families packed into cramped spaces. Residents in these areas endure life with limited access to essential services such as water, plumbing and electricity. Furthermore, issues with property rights persist, as slum dwellers typically have little to no control over the land they inhabit. 

Shining Hope for Communities

Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) is a nonprofit organization based in Kibera that delivers transformative services to urban slum residents. These services include educational leadership, community advocacy and health and wellness. SHOFCO coordinates water, sanitation and hygiene education by uniting community health workers to spread safe wellness practices. The program ensures accessible and affordable sanitation and clean water. In 2016, SHOFCO introduced an aerial piping system that significantly increased clean water distribution in Kibera. This system now includes about 41 clean water kiosks that serve 37,541 users, providing them with an average of 200,000 liters of clean water daily.

Looking Ahead

Government infrastructure could play a critical role in addressing the housing crisis, especially in areas like the slums of Kibera. Supporting organizational ground-level efforts to provide more stable housing infrastructure is vital during government shortfalls. U.N. Habitat asserts that everyone has a fundamental human right to housing, ensuring access to a safe, secure, habitable and affordable home. This provision transcends mere shelter, enhancing economic and social opportunities for improved living conditions and a brighter future in regions such as Kibera.

– Dominic Samaniego

Dominic is based in Fullerton, CA, USA and focuses on Technology and Global Health for The Borgen Project.

Photo: Flickr

informal settlementsThe Philippines is an archipelagic country in Southeast Asia, about 500 miles off the coast of Vietnam. In 2018, almost 43% of the urban population lived in informal settlements. These slum communities endure cramped living spaces, insecure tenure and inadequate access to essential services such as water and sanitation.

President Marcos’ urban development initiative

In 2023, President Marcos launched a flagship urban development initiative. The ambitious project set out to construct six million housing units by 2028 to benefit 30 million Filipinos and generate employment opportunities. Demonstrating a commitment to collaborative efforts, the government has successfully entered into memorandums of understanding with 47 local government units to facilitate cooperation on this housing initiative. Ten months in, the Department of Human Settlement and Urban Development reported 1.2 million housing units built across the country, exceeding program targets.

Community-based development is effective

Poor urban populations that work with rather than receive aid from institutions have been successful in the Philippines. According to the World Resources Institute, one participatory housing program in Iloilo City relocated two-thirds of the population to safer areas without evictions. With the help of the local government’s community-based housing programs, 1,250 households in Iloilo could relocate to safer places. This 2022 approach became a model for programs in other parts of the Philippines and Asia.

Reliable data is lacking

About 4.5 million people are homeless or living in informal settlements in the Philippines. Three million of this population are in Metro Manila, “the capital region and largest metropolitan area of the Philippines.” Due to the consistent risk of eviction, occupants are unwilling to give information for surveys on informal settlements.

Residents do not have formal addresses and there is no consistent data collection method for recording the size of squatting communities. As a result, most statistics given are low estimates. Prominent studies highlight the lack of data on urban poverty, hindering effective policies for people experiencing poverty.

Half of the population lives in urban areas

Rural-to-urban migration patterns are rapid and driven by the need for work. In the Asia-Pacific region alone, 150,000 people migrate daily to cities. This migration is driven by economic opportunity, a lack of jobs in rural areas and the allure of a better lifestyle. Many Filipinos from rural regions relocate to urban centers like Metro Manila, Cebu City and Davao City in search of employment, education, health care and more.

Cities are only sometimes built to handle this constant influx from rural areas. Due to overcrowding in city centers, the government continues to encourage rural development. Urban migration has led to nearly 115,000 units of public housing lying empty in rural areas. Efforts to address this migration include initiatives to promote rural development, create job opportunities outside major cities and improve living conditions in rural and urban settings.

Housing affordability is key

According to the Philippines Institute for Development Studies, low-income households cannot afford housing priced at 30% of their income, while middle-income households can. Coupled with rapid urbanization, this results in a need for more affordable housing near jobs for lower-income populations.

When housing costs are too high, families may be forced to live in inadequate or unsafe conditions, compromising their health and overall quality of life. Moreover, high housing costs can lead to financial strain, limiting individuals’ ability to save, invest or spend on other essential needs. Addressing housing affordability is crucial for promoting social inclusion, reducing poverty and fostering sustainable economic development in the Philippines.

Up to 20 typhoons and 150 earthquakes each year

In addition to flooding and active volcanoes, the Philippines is highly susceptible to natural disasters. It is located along the Pacific Ring of Fire and in the path of typhoons. Coastal and low-lying areas are particularly prone. Additionally, the country’s many active volcanoes, such as Mayon and Taal, pose risks of eruptions.

Informal settlements are among the most vulnerable to natural disasters. However, nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity, Build Change and CARE Philippines are spearheading projects to replace informal settlements with typhoon-resistant housing units so that communities don’t have to spend months every year rebuilding their homes.

– Ava Johnson
Photo: Unsplash

biggest slum in TokyoLocated within the bustling city of Tokyo is a hidden slum called Sanya — a place of hostels, displaced individuals and a dark past that lingers. During Japan’s Edo Period, many people flocked to Sanya to take advantage of the low costs of living, but when World War II hit, Sanya was converted into a makeshift town of tents for those displaced by bombings. Eventually, these tents were traded in for wooden hostels, which still remain today.

If one were to try to locate Sanya on a modern map, it would be impossible, having been erased 50 years ago in an attempt to keep the slum’s violence, homelessness and poverty from tainting the image of Tokyo. Sanya is not even located in a single district; it has been divided between the districts of Kiyokawa and Zutsumi. The biggest slum in Tokyo remains officially unnamed, but the name Sanya is kept alive by local residents.

The Population of Sanya

About 1,500 individuals of the Sanya population are low-income workers as well as retired laborers — many of whom were responsible for rebuilding Japan after World War II. Most of these people are between the ages of 60 and 70, and because of this, the once-active hostels are now being transformed into slow retirement homes. The elderly population is isolated in Tokyo’s hidden slum; poverty and age push them farther away from regular, Japanese society — outside of Sanya as well as internally. Because the average age in Sanya is so high, many of the people who reside here are only living off of pensions — contributing to the growing impoverished population in Sanya.

Gentrification Attempts Are Hurting Longtime Residents

To those who have lived in Sanya for decades and are part of the largely impoverished population in the district, gentrification is not the answer to financial problems, but the problem itself. Local authorities fight to resist commercial developments, but are no match for private landowners set on tearing down pre-existing buildings—such as hostels and other lodging facilities—to build more efficient housing. The retired, senior residents living off of mere pensions find this particularly frustrating because, with such little income, it would be incredibly difficult to relocate out of these hostels and start anew elsewhere. 

Hotels, apartments and stores are being built as tourism flourishes — completely changing Sanya’s ambiance. Many residents claim that Tokyo’s hidden slum is not only losing living opportunities for the impoverished due to gentrification but also its culture. Old and original stores are being torn down for new ones, and this irks many residents. 

Hope in the Forgotten District 

Japan is actively working to combat poverty and provide assistance to the impoverished through The Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction (JFPR). Currently, there are hundreds of millions being poured into vital components of the economy, such as health, transport, agriculture and technical assistance. This project was established in 2000 but is geared more toward the international population of Asian countries located near Japan. But Sanya, Tokyo’s hidden slum, has its own prominent business working to combat the struggles of the local impoverished. 

YUI Associates is a community building project based in Sanya and works to help the displaced population through a myriad of initiatives as well as bringing awareness to the issues within Sanya. This social enterprise additionally owns a couple of hotels for both travelers and Sanya residents struggling to get by. 

YUI Associates also owns the Sanya Cafe, a cafe determined to serve affordable items and provide retired laborers with meals in exchange for collected trash. This cafe was also named in an attempt to unofficially emphasize and declare that Sanya is the true name of this district — expunged or not. Not only does YUI Associates work firsthand with the impoverished population of Sanya, but workers also take to the streets on Mondays to clean the community and converse with residents and listen to any that want to talk. 

In a place nicknamed “The Lost District” and the “Place Where People Come to Disappear,” hope prevails in Sanya. Resilience is seen in the strong spirit of the residents, and with businesses like YUI Associates, Sanya improves constantly.

– Nina Argel
Photo: Unsplash

DharaviMumbai’s Dharavi is one of the world’s largest slums and is home to roughly 1 million people since it was established in 1884. Dharavi was initially inhabited by fishermen and later extended to migrant workers from south Mumbai. The slum’s conditions are dire and inhabitants have suffered from the spread of numerous epidemics and diseases due to the lack of sanitation, drinking water, roads and basic healthcare services.

Hidden Markets

Despite its harsh economic and social conditions, Dharavi is close to Mumbai’s two main suburban rail lines, which has made commuting to work easier for workers. Over the years, Dharavi has also developed a large number of thriving small-scale industries that produce embroidered garments, quality leather goods, pottery and plastic. Furthermore, there are estimated to be 5,000 businesses and 15,000 single-room factories located within Dharavi, making it a prime entrepreneurial realm with potential revenue that can total anywhere from $700 million to $1 billion USD a year.

Many of these initiatives are undertaken by women living in the slums, many of whom have taken the lead and become the main breadwinners of their families. In fact, out of the 65,000 rural markets in India, almost 75% are run by women.

Renuka Shinde’s Story

One such example is Renuka Shinde, who was forced to take up the role of the breadwinner after her husband left her and their three sons. Renuka traveled to Kolkata from her home in Dharavi to buy handloom saris to start her small business. At the end of a month’s hard work, Renuka brings home Rs 3,000 or roughly $48 by selling saris and other garments around Mumbai. Renuka makes a profit of Rs12,000 ($200) a month and this tends to increase during Indian festivals such as Diwali and also during wedding seasons.

Pushpalata Chittikindi’s Story

Another example is Pushpalata Chittikindi, who is left to fend for her two sons in the absence of her alcoholic husband. Pushpalata started making metal buckles and sold them piece by piece to nearby factories in the neighborhood. The businesswoman also worked as a cook and cleaner in her spare time. Following the advice of her friends, Pushpalata took a loan to set up her machine but lacked financial knowledge and experience with banks. Pushpalata took the help of a local NGO that gave out small loans to support local women.

With help from the NGO, Pushpalata started making Rs 250, about $4, per day. The businesswoman later pivoted to buying biscuits and snacks from wholesale stores and selling them from her home to nearby school kids. With the money she earned, Pushalata was able to pay off her loans in a year and rented a small store nearby, which she later named after her son, Sagar.

Women in Poverty

The biggest challenge to women looking to follow in the footsteps of Renuka and Pushpalata is access to credit – a first step to overcoming their financial struggles. In India, the poverty rate for women ages 25 to 34 was roughly 12% in 2020 and is said to increase to 14% following the dire effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. On the other hand, Indian men in poverty are roughly 100 men to every 120 women in poverty. The statistics highlight that there is disparity even within the parameters of poverty and that Indian women need support and guidance in their economic endeavors.

Addressing Credit Challenges

Thanks to the Vandana Foundation, an organization that provides low-interest micro-loans to female entrepreneurs in Dharavi, this challenge has become easier to overcome. In addition to the Vandana Foundation, many other NGOs such as the Light of Life Trust, Human Capital For Third Sector and Catalyst For Social Action, also play a big role to support India’s entrepreneurs and inhabitants.

A Take-away from Dharavi

The story of these women stands to show that although we tend to underestimate the power of small-scale local entrepreneurs, they are capable of making a considerable impact. If given the opportunity and starting resources, people have the power to change their financial circumstances and thus their lives, even in slums like Dharavi. There are hidden markets similar to the ones in Dharavi all over the world. By understanding where the opportunities lie and how to best support them, we can help people to help themselves and their communities.

Samyudha Rajesh
Photo: Flickr

Argentia's slums, Buenos Aires slums
Argentina is the fifth-highest country with the most COVID-19 cases in South America, with 111,000 recorded cases by mid-July. Moreover, Argentina’s COVID-19 related death toll has nearly doubled since June, surpassing 5,000 cases. Confirmed illnesses continue to be on the rise, with more than half concentrated in the urban hotspot of Buenos Aires City. Approximately 88% of all cases in Argentina are reported from within Buenos Aires, its impoverished slums or its surrounding regions.

COVID-19 in Argentina

While the federal government acted early to contain the virus, including imposing a strict nightly curfew since March, Argentina’s most impoverished remain extremely susceptible to COVID-19 and its dire economic consequences. For example, within Buenos Aires’ slums, families often have to sell their homes to afford meals for their families.

Nearly half of all Buenos Aires cases were estimated to be in its slums in late May. In some instances, outbreaks became so alarming that the government would enforce security and fences around these neighborhoods to ensure residents do not spread the virus—at the expense of residents’ increased impoverishment.

Regional non-governmental organizations (NGOs) within Argentina recognized these hardships faced by low-income Argentinians and are currently working to mitigate the health and economic consequences. Here are five NGOs battling COVID-19 in Argentina’s slums.

5 NGOs Fighting COVID-19 in Argentina’s Slums

  1. Chequeado, Spanish for “Checked,” is an online journalism platform that fact-checks public information on Argentinian politics and society. The organization’s website has recently launched a new COVID-19 section to keep citizens informed about the fact-based science behind the virus. The section also covers COVID-19 cases and newly implanted preventative measures. Headlines range from the effectiveness of spraying items with alcohol to the evidence surrounding the transmission of COVID-19 by air. Given the growing number of slum residents having access to the internet due to Argentina’s globalization efforts, this news outlet is accessible to slum residents who would not have access to the information otherwise.
  2. International Organization for Migration, or IOM, works with state and non-state actors to assist migrants through various means, ranging from counter-trafficking to resettlement support. During the COVID-19 pandemic, IOM is working with the Argentine Red Cross to provide food and cleaning supplies to vulnerable migrants. The organization is also ensuring all migrants understand COVID-19 precautions, translating public information to French for migrants from Haiti and Senegal, as well as English for migrants from Jamaica.
  3. Pequeños Pasos, translating to “small steps,” aims to bring sustainable development to the lives of Argentina’s impoverished. While the NGO focuses on missions ranging from education to employment, health and nutrition have been at the forefront of its efforts. Given the looming issue of extreme food insecurity due to COVID-19, Pequeños Pasos has launched an emergency food project to feed more than 12,500 people at risk of hunger in Buenos Aires slums. For a year, the NGO will provide monthly emergency food bags to vulnerable families.
  4. Asociación Civil Ingeniería sin Fronteras Argentina is a civil engineering organization that has taken on the project to quadruple the capacity of ventilators in Argentine hospitals. This solution aims to alleviate the possibility of ICU units reaching over-capacity and providing a sufficient number of ventilators for COVID-19 patients. The project aims to raise $7,015 to expand Argentina’s existing ventilator capacity, potentially saving thousands of Argentine lives. As a disproportionate number of slum-dwellers are contracting the virus, this aid will help them overcome the effects of COVID-19.
  5. Las Tunas is an education-based NGO that offers children and adolescents various educational resources, including scholarships and arts empowerment classes. In light of the socio-economic effects of COVID-19, the organization has expanded its efforts to help families remain economically stable. New website resources include a “Monitoring, Accompaniment and Early Detections” program that helps set up productive quarantine routines for families. The NGO also has a unique “Economic Development” program, which provides families with business strategies and training materials to increase household incomes. Original educational programs for youth are now also delivered online.

Looking Ahead

While COVID-19 cases in Argentina have overwhelmingly affected the country’s impoverished populations, diverse civil society organizations are working to combat the effects of COVID-19 in Argentina’s slums. Whether through economic empowerment or preventing misinformation on COVID-19, these five NGOs aim to stabilize Argentina’s most marginalized’s living conditions during the pandemic.

—Breana Stanski
Photo: Flickr

Hope for Slums in Kenya

A homeless child is wandering the streets of the largest slum in Africa. The child steals a mango, his meal for the next two days. An angry mob seeks justice and starts beating the hungry child. For some reason, a man saves the child from further punishment by paying for the mango. The man carried on with his day, but that boy’s life was changed forever. His name is Kennedy Odede and he is the founder of the multimillion-dollar nonprofit organization called Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) to create hope for slums in Kenya.

Odede was forced to the streets at the young age of 10 because of poverty and violence in his family. After being saved from the angry mob, Odede met a Catholic priest who helped him go back to school. In addition to school, Odede was working a factory job that paid him only $1 for 10 hours of work. The kindness from strangers in the face of these struggles is what inspired Odede to create Shining Hope for Communities as a way to give back to his hometown and help the urban poor.

SHOFCO started in 2004 with, “passion, 20 cents and a soccer ball.” The grassroots organization works to transform urban slums into communities of hope. They do this in three ways. The first is by providing life-saving services like healthcare and clean water. As a grassroots organization, they also promote collective action, so that the struggling communities can advocate for lasting change. Finally, SHOFCO also works to educate young girls and allow them to be leaders because they are the key to advocating for and maintaining positive change in Kenya and Africa’s slums.

Here are a few ways that SHOFCO has benefited Kibera:

  • Over 500 students received free education from kindergarten to eighth grade
  • SHOFCO created 24 water kiosks that provided low-cost water to over 30,000 Kibera residents
  • The water kiosks served around 300,000 people in the region

The progress SHOFCO has made in Kenya and other African nations are remarkable. Grants and donations are SHOFCO’s main source of funding. They have yet to receive foreign aid, but the possibility of funding from the Kenyan government is looking more likely. SHOFCO could give hope for slums in Kenya and so many other slums in Africa if they received foreign aid. The impact that they have already made is astounding and they can only go up from here. In 2018, SHOFCO had some remarkable achievements:

  • Over 90 percent of students passed their KCPE exam which is an exam given at the end of primary school
  • The average school score on the KCPE was a B+
  • SHOFCO trained almost 1,500 new entrepreneurs

Fifteen years ago a boy who had struggled for most of his life started an organization that would change the lives of thousands. From earning $1 for 10 hours of work, Kennedy Odede used 20 cents of that dollar to create SHOFCO. With his amazing passion and kindness, SHOFCO has given hope for slums in Kenya. Together, Odede and SHOFCO have provided essential services to the poor and empowered young girls and women to create lasting change.

Gaurav Shetty
Photo: Flickr


Informal Schools in African Slums
The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) estimates that, as of 2010, more than 200 million people in Africa reside in slums. This means more than 200 million people are living their lives in inhumane conditions and circumstances. The children living in these slums have a compromised opportunity at education. According to UNICEF, the youth residing in slums are some of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable youth in the world. Due to the burgeoning need for educational institutions in Africa, informal schools in African slums are gaining popularity.

What are Informal Schools?

Informal schools are unregistered educational institutions that are not recognized by the government. Traditional schooling comes in the form of either private or public schools, and informal schools are a sort of middle ground. They typically operate in impoverished areas and are mostly geared around offering the same education as a primary school. These institutions are funded by private parties and non-profit organizations.

Increasing Need

The main reason that the number of informal schools in African slums has been on the rise has to do with a surge of enrollment in public schools. This is, in part, due to the initiative of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which pushed toward target goals that would reduce poverty, such as improved access to education. This enrollment surge is a positive factor in Africa’s education sector, but comes with a downside: there are not enough public schools to meet the rising need of educating African children, and the usual alternative, private schools, are not financially accessible to most African families. Overcrowding in African schools has been an increasing problem; the pupil to instructor ratio in African primary schools is 42:1.

In response to the need for more educational institutes, informal schools have been sprouting up all over Africa, especially in slums. Characterized by the same steel and dirt architecture in the surrounding slums, these schools offer an alternative option for education. There is a lack of government schools in slums, so private sectors and organizations provide funds for the informal schools.

The Benefits of Informal Schooling

Informal schools in African slums not only facilitate access to education but also offer a safe space for the youth. Many of these schools, such as the Destiny Junior Education Center, offer meals and restrooms, which are not commodities in slum-living. Informal schools keep African children off the streets and in the classrooms, which potentially helps them stay away from the vices that are rampant in slum environments like drugs and alcohol.

The Future of Informal Schools

The next step regarding informal schools is to put policies in place to protect them. There are members in the education committee of the National Assembly that are working toward informal schools being recognized by the government so as to strengthen the quality of education in them.

Overall, informal schools in African slums are an attempt to meet the increasing need for education in slums. By offering an alternative to the congested public schools, these informal education centers provide hope for African youth.

– Paula Bouza
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Mumbai
Mumbai is a city with a massive population but, like most of India, it struggles with poverty. Poverty has long been a major concern for the Indian government, but with a consistently growing population, it is becoming increasingly harder to create effective change. Regardless, having all the facts about the city is a good first step to understanding what can be done to improve living standards. The following are 10 important facts about poverty in Mumbai.

10 Facts About Poverty in Mumbai

  1. According to the 2011 census, the population of Mumbai was 12,478,447. Estimates for 2018 put the population around 22 million; however, the next official census is not scheduled until 2021.
  2. In 2016, an estimated 55 percent of Mumbai’s population lived in slums. A slum is an area of dense population typically characterized by poverty, deteriorated housing and buildings and poor living conditions. 
  3. Not all slums are recognized, or “notified,” by the Indian government, meaning residents of “non-notified” slums are not entitled to piped water, toilets, electricity or public transportation. This also allows the government to de-prioritize them in slum improvement schemes.
  4. Almost half of Mumbai’s slums are non-notified, and Mumbai is estimated to have the largest slum population of any city in the world. 
  5. Lack of access to clean water causes various bacterial infections. These can cause mild to severe diarrheal illnesses and, in some cases, mortality through the ingestion of harmful chemicals, toxins and bacteria. These illnesses are particularly prevalent in non-notified slums. 
  6. The Indian government created the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) in 1971. Since then, the SRA has been implementing projects and policies to try and improve the lives of people living in poverty. The SRA website has a record of 1,513 total projects that have been run in cities and villages across India, including many in Mumbai. 
  7. Mumbai also has a large homeless population that is unable to access any housing or places to settle in. According to the 2011 census, over 54,500 people are homeless in Mumbai. 
  8. Mumbai had a 33.4 percent secondary education drop out rate in early 2017. However, there has also been a 20 percent increase in enrollment since 2010. 
  9. The income gap in Mumbai and other parts of India is widening. According to a Maharashtra survey, people in the poorest districts earn only 25 percent of what people in the wealthiest districts do. 
  10. The largest slum in Mumbai is called Dharavi. It is home to about one million people, however many of them are not below the poverty line. While still densely packed, Dharavi is home to middle-class, well-educated residents, and many of them have satisfactory living conditions.

These are the top 10 facts about poverty in Mumbai. While many of them depict poverty and issues that need to be addressed, others point out positive aspects of the city that may not always receive as much visibility. It is important to look at the city’s strengths in addition to its weaknesses in order to gain a fuller understanding of the issue at hand.

– Liyanga de Silva

Photo: Flickr

How the Media Misrepresents El SalvadorLatin American countries tend to be represented as third-world countries compared to more prosperous ones like the United States. El Salvador is not exempt from such narratives. One such way that the media misrepresents El Salvador is by only covering the negative aspects of the news and not the positive. Some of the negative portrayals include stories about drugs, murders and gang violence.

A Better Future for Salvadorans

While there is this negativity present, there is also a garment factory that is trying to help turn the life of its workers around. This garment factory hired people “who are normally left out of society, including ex-gang members,” according to PBS News Hour. The factory combines school and works to give El Salvador a brighter future.

The factory’s general manager, Rodrigo Bolanos, said, “I saw the American dream, where lower- and middle-class kids can work and study at night in community colleges. And for me, that is a good way to resolve and to give the American dream right here in El Salvador to all these poor people.”

Carlos Arguetta, a previous gang member, wore long sleeves to his interview to try to cover up his tattoos, as described in the report. Through an interpreter, Arguetta stated that if he “didn’t have a job like this one, [he] would probably still be part of the gang and be doing killings.”

Improving Living Conditions in Slums

Another way that the media misrepresents El Salvador is in the way that its citizens live. Descriptions of wooden shacks are abundant when describing living conditions. While that might be true, there are two companies that are trying to change the places that Salvadorans live in.

Recently, a Texas-based construction technology company by the name of ICON partnered with New Story, a company that builds homes in developing countries, in order to provide better living conditions for those stuck in the El Salvador slums. ICON and New Story plan to transport a 3D-printer in order to produce 3D-printed homes for people at a highly reduced building cost.

The companies hope to give people who live in the slums an opportunity to live in a safer housing environment. As reported by Arab News, the mixture that produces the homes contains “a mix of concrete, water and other materials [that] are pumped through the 3D-printer.” The mixture hardens as it is being printed. It only takes 48 hours for a house to be built from the ground up. This is a much better alternative to makeshift shacks that citizens currently live in.

Using Art to Combat Violence

The final persistent misrepresentation of El Salvador in the media is the violence, and while the violence does occur, the nation is often presented as inescapable. However, art is one way that Salvadorans are able to escape their realities.

Marco Paíz is an artist and organizer of a festival by the name of “Sombrilla Fest,” or umbrella fest. It is a festival that is part of a bigger celebration called the World Social Circus Day, which takes place annually on April 7. This day is organized to be an international day to spread joy and is celebrated by 20 nations worldwide.

The goal of the festival is to have people “take over these spaces and these activities so that they [can] come out of the darkness of the violence that surrounds the country,” said Marco Paíz to TeleSur. It can also be an opportunity to motivate Salvadorans to learn the artistic practices so that they are able to improve their own living situation.

Despite the ways in which the media misrepresents El Salvador, there are numerous positive developments happening across this Central American nation.

– Valeria Flores

Photo: Flickr

facts about costa rica slums

With nearly 21 percent of Costa Rica’s population lived below the poverty line in 2016. In a July 2017 report, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency reported that Costa Rica’s population was at 4,930,258 and over one million Costa Ricans currently live in poverty. The following 10 facts about Costa Rica slums focus on two of its major slums: Triángulo de Solidaridad and La Carpio. These 10 facts about Costa Rica slums also touch on the appearance of residents’ homes and the government’s role in their maintenance.


10 Facts about Costa Rica Slums

  1. Triángulo de la Solidaridad, one of the capital’s best-known slums, is now a tourist attraction. Slum residents guide visitors and Costa Ricans through the slum in order to provide them with a new perspective on the country’s consistently high poverty rate.
  2. Roughly 2,000 people— more than 520 families— live in Triángulo de la Solidaridad.
  3. Triángulo de Solidaridad is located off Route 32, just north of downtown San José. Residents must cross the highway daily as they walk to and from work.
  4. Costa Rican slums appear colorful because their improvised homes are made of tin, wood and other scrap materials.
  5. Triángulo de la Solidaridad, because it is located along the highway, conflicts with Circunvalación Norte— a project that expands the belt route connecting eastern and western sectors of San José. The Housing Ministry must notify and relocate families who live in the community.
  6. La Carpio is one of Costa Rica’s least known slums, but it may very well be one of the worst. The slum is a remote section of San José located between two polluted rivers and the city’s landfill. Over 30,000 residents are packed into La Carpio.
  7. La Carpio and Triángulo de la Solidaridad were both founded by Nicaraguan refugees. The majority of their residents are undocumented immigrants who are often ignored by the Costa Rican government.
  8. Over the past 20 years, La Carpio has established schools and a medical clinic, water and sewage connections, cement floors and paved roads.
  9. A few students from La Carpio are set to graduate from high school and attend university— a milestone for the community.
  10. La Carpio residents can either walk across a bridge or take a bus to get to work. The bridge is a rickety suspension foot-bridge that stretches across the Rio Torres, but residents still opt for this dangerous route to save the 45 cents bus fare.

As evident in the preceding 10 facts about Costa Rica slums, slums may become tourist attractions that offer visitors a new perspective on living below the poverty threshold. Tourists that are exposed to poverty may seek further education on the subject in an attempt to eradicate it.

– Carolyn Gibson

Photo: Flickr