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Slums in Latin AmericaCurrently, one in seven people worldwide lives in a slum. By some estimates, this number will rise to one in four people by the year 2030. A slum can be defined as housing with no land permits, inadequate access to basic services (water, toilets and electricity), unsafe components (broken windows, dirt floors and leaks) and an overcrowded population. These 10 facts about slums in Latin America explain how people are affected by these poor living conditions.

10 Facts About Slums in Latin America

  1. Rapid Urbanization: South America has historically been dominated by rural living. However, in more recent years, the cities of South America have seen a rapid rate of urbanization. Urban living now supports 82 percent of the population. When people move from the countryside to the city in large numbers, there are often not enough resources to support everyone. As a result, people resort to constructing illegal housing to survive.
  2. Millions Affected: In Latin America, approximately 117 million people survive in poverty. Most of these people survive in slums just outside major metropolitan areas. These cities include Mexico City, São Paulo, Bogota, Rio de Janeiro and Lima.
  3. Neza-Chalco-Itiza: On the cusp of Mexico City rests Neza-Chalco-Itiza, one of the largest slums in South America and the fourth largest in the world. With a population of 1.1 million people, the slum is filled to the brim. People flooded to the city after World War II in hopes of work, but they found poverty instead. Today, the slum has developed a systematic way of living that mimics life inside the major city.
  4. Favelas: Some of the most infamous slums can be found in Brazil. In Portuguese, slums are called favelas. Most favelas in Brazil can be found in the areas surrounding Rio de Janeiro. More than 11 million people live in this type of housing.
  5. Entrepreneurship: While slums can be a source of hardship and poverty, they can also be the birthplace for many entrepreneurs. With so many people struggling to survive, some take it upon themselves to create businesses out of the little resources that they have. For example, Bistrô Estação R&R is a bar inside a garage in Rio de Janeiro. These small businesses bring people together in their communities and can help boost the economy.
  6. Widespread disease: Slums are often a breeding ground for disease. With a lack of proper sanitation and people living in such close proximity, illness develops fast and spreads even quicker. Tuberculosis is just one example of a disease that has spread in slums. In Peru, 60 percent of tuberculosis cases in 2011 were reported from the slums surrounding Lima. Luckily, organizations such as the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) have hosted several government interventions to advocate for development plans.
  7. Drugs, gangs and violence: With a lack of central authority, slums are more susceptible to drugs, gangs and violence. Many of the world’s most infamous drug lords originate from these areas and threaten the local community. While police intervention sometimes occurs, often these communities are ignored. In 2015, 47 of the 50 most murderous cities were found in Latin America.
  8. Upgrading housing: With the aim of improving housing for communities living in slums, several nonprofits, such as TECHO, have advocated for the improvement of infrastructure. TECHO’s policy is that slums of 10 or more families who lack one or more necessities, such as water or sewage, qualify for aid. In several of TECHOs projects, houses have been reconstructed using pinewood and tin. Families who received this assistance have stated that their quality of life has effectively improved after the refurbishments.
  9. Pride: While slums can be riddled with poverty and crime, they are also filled with pride. In a 2013 study, 85 percent of favela residents said that they like where they are from. This could largely be attributed to the communities formed within these tight housing situations and the entrepreneurship that binds people together.
  10. Slum tourism: Slum tourism is when travelers visit impoverished populations in order to see the areas. The practice began in the 1800s when wealthy Londoners would pay to see a lifestyle that was so drastically different from their own. Slum tourism can have negative effects on a community for multiple reasons. For one, it promotes the wealth gap by separating the wealthy from the poor. In addition, poverty tourism does not necessarily benefit local areas. If tourists pay larger organizations to conduct the visit rather than community members, the money will not reach the slums. On the other hand, poverty tourism that challenges negative stereotypes and is led by slum residents can aid in the growth of the local economy.

By looking at these 10 facts about slums in Latin America, it easy to see how these living conditions can damage a person’s health and wellbeing as well as how the residents of these slums are struggling to survive. However, by upgrading communities and being conscious tourists, these areas can be uplifted and improved, helping the one-seventh of the world that lives in slums.

-Anna Melnik
Photo: Flickr

Fighting Global Poverty with Affordable HousingA home serves as protection from the weather. It is the place from which individuals, families and communities grow. Sometimes it is the only four walls where people can let down their guards and be themselves. It is where they can afford to dream. Yet, 1.6 billion people across the globe cannot afford a safe place to live. They may have some semblance of a house, but they do not have a home. Without adequate, affordable housing, global poverty projects can only go so far. Here are five incredible organizations fighting global poverty with affordable housing, from the ground up.

5 Organizations Providing Affordable Housing in Vulnerable Areas

  1. New Story: A Home in 24 Hours
    New Story is a San Francisco-based nonprofit determined to end global homelessness. Since 2015, the organization has helped build 2,200 homes across Latin America. But for New Story, this wasn’t fast enough. The nonprofit partnered with ICON, a construction technology company. This partnership created a 3-D home printer that can build a house in 24 hours for roughly $4,000. For 80 percent of Salvadorans who lack adequate housing and are extremely vulnerable to earthquakes and flooding, this technology could transform their lives. New Story and ICON plan to build the first printed community in El Salvador, bringing safe housing to over 400 individuals.
  2. CARE International: Rebuilding After Disaster
    In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan killed approximately 6,430 Filipinos and destroyed one million homes. Depending on the year, millions of people worldwide become homeless due to natural disasters. Despite such destruction, the only choice is to rebuild. CARE, a humanitarian organization operating in 93 countries, stepped in after Typhoon Haiyan to help Filipinos reconstruct their lives. Over the course of three years, CARE helped over 15,500 homeless families rebuild their communities.
  3. EarthEnable: Safe Housing From the Ground Up
    Fighting global poverty with affordable housing requires a different approach in each country. Though people may have access to affordable housing (defined as less than 30 percent of one’s income), that housing may not even be safe. The nonprofit EarthEnable focuses on the adequate side of affordable housing, making sub-standard homes more standard. Three out of four Rwandans and one billion people worldwide live in homes with dirt floors that house parasites and disease. These are conditions which cause diarrhea, respiratory illness and other serious health conditions. EarthEnable employs Rwandans and teaches them how to replace dirt floors with earthen floors, which are waterproof, sanitary and cost 75 percent less than concrete flooring. So far, earthen floors have been installed in 2,300 homes in Rwanda. This is yet another way that people are coming together and fighting global poverty with affordable housing.
  4. World Habitat: Advocating for Change
    World Habitat is an advocacy organization based in the U.K. charity that together global institutions, national governments, grassroots organizations and local communities to figure out solutions to affordable housing. Every year, the nonprofit hosts the World Habitat Awards, which highlight and celebrate innovative housing solutions. Additionally, the event gifts two winners with $10,000. It is imperative to be on the ground, building affordable houses and rebuilding after a disaster, but it is also necessary to raise awareness and foster housing collaboration across the globe. “There is no shortage of housing problems,” explains World Habitat founder Peter Elderfield. “What is needed are solutions.”
  5. TECHO: Cities that Benefit Everyone
    In 1997, TECHO was a group of students committed to eradicating poverty in Chilean slums. Over 20 years later, TECHO has mobilized over one million volunteers. In fact, TECHO has built 115,000 houses across Latin America. According to U.N.-Habitat estimates, 80 percent of Latin Americans live in cities Of that population, 104 million live in informal settlements or slums. TECHO’s youth-led, community-based approach has been extremely effective. The nonprofit works with individual communities to address their specific needs, whether it be better access to basic services, safe and adequate housing, land ownership support or all of the above.

Making Access to Affordable Housing a Human Right

Fighting global poverty with affordable housing requires solutions at all levels, from local communities to humanitarian organizations and national governments. These five organizations illustrate that adequate, affordable housing is at the crux of global poverty issues. Not only must affordable housing become a priority, but it must also be a basic human right.

– Kate McIntosh
Photo: Flickr

giving
“I believe poverty is not an inherent part of society, but can be overcome if everyone works to achieve it.”-Jessica Beck.

Jessica Beck is the founder of FIU TECHO, a branch of the Techo organization at Florida International University. Techo is an international non-profit organization provides humanitarian aid to the poor citizens of Latin America and the Caribbean.  The focus is to educate the residents on how to implement long lasting solutions to the issues of education, malnutrition, poverty, and corruption.

One Techo branch at Florida International University is participating in the Wynwood Miami Art Walk, a local artist event held the second Saturday every month. The Techo letters will be found along the walk and members can write down their hopes and goals towards ending global poverty and making the lives of others so much better. Notoriously broke, college students participating for Techo in the Art Walk are proving that anyone can make an impact – no matter how little people think they might have to give.

Sustainable development means formulating economic and environmental growth policies that don’t detract from environmental health, meaning they will be successful policies in the long run. Societies can’t function on infrastructures that are not environmentally sound because eventually the negative consequences of those policies will force the society to restructure yet again.

Founded in 1997, Techo is a Latin American non-profit organization focusing on providing aid to people living in slums through volunteers working with families struggling with extreme poverty. The organization uses an ‘implementation’ method that targets community development. The Non profit’s fundraising headquarters are in Miami, Florida and it is lead by young volunteers. Volunteers are present in 19 countries including Brazil, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru, Panama, Ecuador, and Venezuela.

Recruitment for volunteers takes place exclusively in college universities, and the organization actively seeks contribution from people less than or equal to 30 years of age. Students with a strong passion for humanitarian work are targeted in the hopes that their dedication will enhance their work. Experience with working in slums helps to qualify volunteers to pursue a professional career in global relief and poverty reduction. The way that Techo works is a mutual effort between volunteers and slum residents. Residents are reassigned houses based on severity of living conditions and are responsible for taking on 10% of the new home cost.

Funding comes from a variety of sources. The Boston Consulting Group and The Inter-American Development Bank are two of Techo’s main partners. Donators known as ‘techo friends’ are monthly financial contributors at a fixed rate. A donator giving 30 dollars a month can support a family that functions on one dollar per day. It is incredible the difference just one dollar can make and sheds light on the common misconception that global poverty is an impossible issue to solve. The condition is reminiscent of something Nelson Mandela once said – “It always seems impossible until it is done.”

– Kaitlin Sutherby

Sources: FIU, Facebook, Techo