Slum life in egypt


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Slums in Egypt have appeared since the beginning of the twenty century. So many reasons have been behind slums in Egypt;

  • Immigration from countryside to urban

  • Rapid increasing in the population

  • Vanishing of effective government policies

  • Inflation in the prices of lands, houses and rents

  • Vanishing of the rule of law.

The government has given more concern to develop cities and urban areas rather than the villages, countryside and rural areas. Lack of jobs opportunities and lack of services in the countryside push people to immigrant to the capital city, Cairo, and other big cities to look for jobs and improve their life standards. The number of population in the cities has increased 13 times during the twenty century. For the same period, the number of population in the countryside has increased only 4 times. In the census of 1907, the percentage of the urban population to the total population of Egypt was 17.2% and it has increased to 43.7% in the census of 2012.3 These percentages show the wide gab between the increasing in the numbers of dwellers in urban and rural areas. The main reason behind this gab is the immigration from rural areas to urban areas, while the main reason behind this immigration is the lack of jobs, opportunities and services in the rural areas.

The rapid increasing of the population in Egypt has created many deeply economic problems including crises in housing, unemployment and shortage in the public services. The population of Egypt has increased more than 8 times since the census of 1907. The population in 1907 was 11.2 million while the population in the census of 2012 was 80.7 million4. This fast increasing in the population occurs too much rising in the housing, jobs and basic needs demands. Because of this high demand, people think about unusual solutions for their social and economic problems. The solution from the view of many people was to establish and expand slums around big cities.

The government has taken so many decisions to eliminate slums in Egypt since 1970s decade. The government’s policies could not achieve significant change in improving slums, because they have not focused on the roots causes slums.

If the government wants an innovation solution for this problem, the policies should focus on developing the areas that export people to slums. Upper and Central Egypt are the main exporters of poor immigrants to Cairo and big cities, because of lack of jobs and lack of big business to provide job opportunities to those people in Upper and Central Egypt.

Another thing, the government policies usually plan for more than five years, and they prepare budget without considering the inflation which occur failure of the policies because of shortage of the financing over the periods of the policy. Also the government gives the responsibility of financing for the local governorates, so it results hug gab between the slums’ improving needs and the planed budget. Slums’ people do not trust government, which creates difficulties to convince people by the policies. Many scholars argue that the government concern about slums from the aspect of the security only; the government started caring about the slums’ issue in 1993, when the terrorism appeared in the slums. That time, slums was a main reassures of violence and crimes specially terrorism. That makes people in slums to think that the government does not care about their humanity, and it only cares about them because of the security.

The used distance of land in Egypt represents only 7 % of the total distance of Egypt including agriculture, housing, urban and rural area and manufacturing. That means Egypt has more 83 millions people live on 70000 square kilometers. That creates shortage in the supply of lands and houses, so the prices are expensive considering the average of the income for the poor people.

Although Egypt has laws bans these kinds of illegal building, the law is usually vanished. For the agriculture, article number 116 issued in1983 bans any kind of buildings on the agricultural lands. Despite this law, Egypt has lost 760 thousand acres of agricultural lands during the last 30 years, because of building on them. These illegal buildings become kernels of the many slums.

Slums environment results too many problems and difficulties. Lack of clean water, basic needs and services, lack of health service, deficiency of sanitation, incompetent housing, poverty and instability are the most annoyed problems in slums. Most slums’ dwellers do not have access to education or satisfied jobs. So many crimes are related to slums such as terrorism, violence, sexual abuse against children and women, and burglary. Drugs addiction and incest are very common also.

Water supply and sanitation networks are not existed in most of slums in Egypt. People suffer a lot because they most walk too much every day to carry water for their families. Usually women are responsible for bringing water for the house everyday, so women especially suffer because of inadequate hard working. They walk through difficult ways and streets, because the streets in the slums are not smooth and they have too many rocks. Women have to go every day and carry many heavy barrels of water. Also, water is not free, they have to pay for water despite their poor economic situation.

Sanitation is another serious problem. Some people do not have restrooms at all, while others who have restrooms, they use wells for toilets because there is no sanitation network in the slum. This result many issues related to security because women have to go toilet at night. They may face security problem such as sexual abuse and harassment. Also, when the well becomes full, they have to hire a special truck and people to empty the well. For that, the dwellers pay too much money comparing with their low income.

Other serious problems in slums are lack of electricity and cooking gas cylinders. Most slums do not have electricity or have intermittent electricity. Most slums’ people get illegal electricity through illegal connections from the electric poles. These connections are not stable, because they must cut them in specific times to hide them from the police. Nonexistent electricity creates difficulties to move freely at night and it effects on the performance of the students as well. Egypt has a problem in the cooking gas, because it is not obtainable for most people. Some people fight to get a cylinder of cooking gas and a few people are killed every year on the lines of the gas cylinders. This shortage of cooking gas is more in slums comparing with others Egyptian societies. Majority of slums’ people use wood for cooking instead of gas.

Slums dwellers live in a very bad health conditions. There all so many factors have negative influences on the health conditions in slums. Lack of clean water, sanitation and nutrition has a significant influence on the people’s health. Because of lack of water, people in slums use underground water by water pump and because of lack of sanitation people use wells for the toilets so the underground water, drinking water, mixes with sewages. It is really dangerous for health. It occurs many diseases for examples; renal failure, hepatitis and diarrhea. The renal failure and hepatitis are very common in Egypt. Egypt is in the top of the list of these two diseases between all the countries around the world. Egypt has 44 thousands renal failure’s patients which means that it has 300 patients per each one million people, 25% of them die every year. 14% of the population of Egypt is ill by hepatitis5. One the most important reason behind these two dangerous diseases is the mixed drinking water with sewage, which is widespread in the slums. Because of the crowded and small rooms, many other viruses and bacteria dominate the slums. It is difficult for the sun and fresh air to get in a small room in a very crowded slum, which results growing the viruses and bacteria in the room. The average numbers of the dwellers in each room in the slums is from 6 to 8 people. This big number of dwellers lives in a room with distance of 4 square miters, so many diseases infect between dwellers specially that they sleep together on the floor in most cases. Using of wood for cooking in a small room results many diseases because of smokes such as lung diseases. This life condition results many psychological problems as well. Many people feel depressed and unhappy because of all these social and psychological problems.

Housing in slums is the most serious problem. Many of slum’s housing are tents, cemeteries, or houses were built out of mud brick. Most of these houses are not suitable for living, because their risks. Some houses do not protect the dwellers from cold or sunny weather, raining and insects including snacks, scorpions and other dangerous insects. Also many of these houses are ramshackle houses. According to The Informal Settlements Development Facility, founded agency to address and solve the slums issues in Egypt, 5 percentages of housings in Egypt are dangerous slums. It observed that there are 266 slums are not suitable for living, 68 slums are dangerous for health, 20 slums are illegal buildings and 29 slums are at risk6. It has been happened many times that buildings in slums fell down and many people have been killed and injured in these catastrophes.


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