The issue: Women and girls often bear the brunt of problems associated with living in slums. Women and girls are burdened with fetching and carrying water over long distances, and caring for sick family members – leaving them little time for education or to make a living. In city slums where sanitation facilities are poor or non-existent, going to the toilet at night or in the early morning puts women at risk of rape and sexual harassment.
Our approach: Women living in slums play a leading role in Homeless International’s projects. They are decision makers, project leaders and community activists. Women are actively involved in designing houses and the layout of their communities. Through our projects they benefit from improved hygiene, have more time for job and education opportunities, and become valued members of their communities.
The issue: Hazardous conditions in slums lead to the spread of deadly illness and disease. Illnesses like cholera, malaria and diarrhoea are prevalent in many slums. HIV infection rates in the Kibera slum in Kenya are twice the national average. Children living in slums have a higher risk of dying from illness and disease and are more likely to suffer from pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria, measles or HIV/AIDS. Diarrhoea kills 1.5 million children under five each year; it is the leading killer of children under five in Kibera.
Our approach: Through helping to improve water supplies, toilets and sanitation, Homeless International’s work helps to reduce the spread of disease in slums.
The issue: Many children living in slums are denied the chance to go to school. Social and cultural barriers deny slum dwellers the opportunity to complete their basic education. Many never go to school at all and few complete primary education. Female literacy rates in Dar es Salaam’s slums are 50% - compared to an overall rate of 94%.
Our approach: By improving living conditions in slums, Homeless International’s projects reduce the time burden on women and girls, enabling them to attend school. In Pakistan we have run schools projects, helping people to set up 577 small and informal schools, benefiting 78,000 children.
The issue: How do you get a job when you don’t have a permanent home? Without a secure and permanent home, work is difficult to find. Without a reliable income, people living in slums are unable to invest in improving their homes and living conditions, making it very difficult to move out of poverty.
Our approach: Through Homeless International’s projects, slum dwellers have been able to start or develop group and individual businesses. They have also received training covering a range of topics from basic accounting to urban agriculture. With their own source of income, people living in slums can develop their business skills, save for the future and improve their lives.
The issue: Banks and other finance institutions often exclude the poorest, either because banks are themselves underdeveloped in many poor countries, or because the poor are considered “unbankable”. As a result, people living in slums have to resort to loan sharks who charge very high interest rates and further impoverish them.
Our approach: A daily savings culture in the communities we work with means people in slums are able to access affordable small loans from their savings, helping to improve their credit rating. Through our Guarantee Fund we help slum dwellers to engage with banks, and give banks incentives to lend to the poor. Through our Bond, we also provide low interest loans to existing partners for community-led housing and infrastructure projects.
The issue: Unrecognised, ignored and excluded. People living in city slums are often unrecognised and ignored by governments, excluding them from city development plans, voting and full protection through the law. This denies them the rights and voice that other citizens have, which in turn can lead to social exclusion.
Our approach: Homeless International supports people in slums to negotiate with governments and showcase their work, demonstrating their capacities and rights. In turn this can help governments to understand slum dwellers needs and to include and support them in future development plans.
The issue: Migration from rural areas and other countries is the main driving force of expanding city slums. As a result, slum communities are made up of varied age groups, ethnic origins and languages. Interethnic tensions are amplified in slums, such as after the 2008 elections in Kenya. Being denied the same rights as other city dwellers can cause further tensions between social groups.
Our approach: Homeless International’s projects are community-led and support people in slums working together to make improvements. With community members working together and taking a leading role and ownership in their own development, the cohesion between social groups is strengthened.
The issue: 1.1 billion people worldwide still have to resort to open defecation. The lack of toilets and overcrowding in slums leaves people with little or no privacy. This problem is particularly acute for women, adolescent girls, young couples, and large families.
Our approach: Through projects that improve housing conditions and access to toilets, Homeless International is helping people living in slums to work together in tackling these issues as a community. Improving access to decent toilets brings privacy and dignity for slum dwellers.
The issue: Disasters such as storms, heavy rainfall and earthquakes affect poor urban areas - and city slums - more severely than others, as poor quality houses collapse or are swept away. Poor drainage and waste management amplify the effects of disasters. The urban poor commonly live in disaster-prone areas, such as along rail tracks, shorelines, river banks, under bridges and on and around rubbish dumps.
Our approach: Homeless International supports projects that help to improve drainage, waste management and housing quality in slums. We support people living in slums to negotiate with authorities for safer and more secure land.
The issue: The majority of people at risk of sea-level rise in developing countries are those living in slums. Low elevation coastal zones are predominantly urban and where the highest population densities are found. More than 300 million people are at risk of sea-level rise in developing countries, the majority of them slum dwellers (SOWC 2008-09).
Our approach: Homeless International’s projects help to improve housing quality, relocate people at risk and support people living in slums to work with authorities so that they are not ignored in redevelopment plans.
The issue: Slum dwellers and their organisations are often dependent on grant aid from foreign countries for their projects and to improve their settlements, particularly when they start to address problems such as housing and infrastructure, which are complex and expensive. Such aid is not always sustainable and can leave people in slums feeling that they are not in control of their own development.
Our approach: We help local organisations to become self-reliant: we partner with them over a long period and help them develop their skills, knowledge and resource base to access different forms of finance, such as soft loans and investments. We also help our partners develop innovative models to generate revenues and make housing and infrastructure more affordable to the poor.