Slums - Human Rights Live Here

23 July 2010

More than 1 billion people across all continents live in slums. These communities, where residents live, work, and raise their children, are characterized by inadequate housing, lack of basic services, overcrowding, and high levels of violence and insecurity.

66446Woman carrying bucket of water on street in slum. Makoko large slum area, Lagos

Almost 1 billion people, across all continents, live in slums. These communities, where residents live, work, and raise their children, are characterized by grossly inadequate housing and living conditions, lack of basic services and overcrowding. In some countries, people living in slums also experience high levels of violence – both from the police and criminal gangs.

Governments are failing in their duty to ensure the human rights of those who live in these communities are fulfilled.

More and more people are being forced to live in slums and informal settlements. Disinvestment in rural areas, conflict, natural disasters, climate change, forced evictions and corporate land grabbing continue to force people to migrate to urban areas where affordable housing is scarce.

People living in slums experience a staggering number of human rights violations. They are routinely denied their right to adequate housing, safe water, sanitation, health and education. They are often not given protection from police and gang violence,

Slum residents pay disproportionately high rents in some countries because rent control legislation is rarely imposed in areas considered by the authorities to be “unregularized”. Residents often have little, or no, say in slum upgrading processes – or other city planning and budgeting issues.

The absence of health facilities and schools within many slums severely restricts access to health care and education. Malnutrition and child mortality rates in slums are much worse than those for other urban residents and often match the rates found in rural areas.

Many urban residents in the developing world lack security of tenure, increasing their susceptibility to forced eviction and often restricting their access to services. In some countries, people who live in slums or informal settlements are also denied the right to vote because of the lack of a proper “address.

Forced evictions are a violation of human rights and often result in people losing their possessions, social networks, and access to work and services. Mass forced evictions are increasingly carried out by governments so that slums can be cleared for urban development, city beautification or national projects.

Women are particularly vulnerable in slums, where lack of facilities place them at greater risk of sexual assault and harassment, and where the reporting of domestic violence is often not treated seriously by police.

The negative perceptions of people living in slums have contributed directly to a serious deterioration in public security in these communities.
Governments have failed to address these issues at both national and international levels. They need to end forced evictions, ensure equal access to public services for people living in slums, and ensure their active participation in all plans directed at slum upgrading.

For more information and country-specific examples, See
Kenya: Insecurity and indignity: Women's experiences in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya
Europe: Stop forced evictions of Roma in Europe
Italy: The wrong answer: Italy's 'Nomad Plan' violates the housing rights of Roma in Rome
Romania: Treated like waste: Roma homes destroyed, and health at risk, in Romania
Cairo's poorest risk being buried alive in their homes
Thousands left homeless by forced evictions in Chad
Cambodia: 160 families have one week to dismantle homes


Return to the Maternal Mortality Evidence Suitcase

  Return to the Slums Evidence Suitcase



Explore the Rights Journey

Travel the world to find out about human rights and poverty. Learn about and take action on maternal mortality, human rights abuses in slums, the need for access to justice for those whose rights have been denied. Meet people and communities, listen to their stories, tell your own.

How you can help