Urban Survivors is a multimedia project by Doctors Without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in collaboration with the NOOR photo agency and Darjeeling Productions, highlighting the critical humanitarian and medical needs that exist in slums the world over.
Urban Survivors takes the visitor on a virtual journey through seven slums -in Guatemala City, Tegucigalpa, Dhaka, Johannesburg, Karachi, Nairobi and Port-au-Prince– where MSF is running projects. The website lets the visitor discover more about the daily lives of people in these slums, the challenges they face, and what MSF is doing to address their humanitarian needs.
Urban Survivors features photo material by renowned, award-winning NOOR photographers Andrea Bruce, Kadir van Lohuizen, Stanley Greene, Alixandra Fazzina, Francesco Zizola, Jon Lowenstein and Pep Bonet.
Take a look to the whole project, with photos, videos and interactive navigation here.
In 2009, following decades of movement from small towns and villages to urban centres, humanity crosed a profound threshold. For the first time, more than half of the world’s population lived in cities rather than in rural areas. While some people have fled violence, conflict or a natural disaster, many people have made the move seeking greater economic opportunity but find themselves living in a desperately harsh urban environment. Rapid and sustained urbanisation has swelled existing slums and even created new ones in many cities around the world. More than 800 million people now live in slum conditions. That’s one out of every 10 people on the planet.
Through its urban projects throughout the developing world, MSF has first-hand experience of the impact that slum environments can have on health. Inhabitants exist in a state of constant vulnerability. Pervasive pollution and unhygienic living conditions breed diarrhoeal and respiratory diseases. Population density, the lack of proper sanitation, and the shortage of health facilities mean that severe weather or outbreaks such as cholera can have devastating effects.
There are also underlying social, legal, policital and economical factors that impact on the health of the urban poor and their ability to access adequate medical care. The move from the village to the city is not only a change in one’s physical environment. It also involves learning a different lifestyle, away from the social structures that had traditionally served as safety nets and, in may instances, provided a sense of identity. Slum inhabitants often find themselves adjusting to a life of poverty in a place where there is often more violence and more crime, and where they are marginalised and discriminated against. Women, children and undocumented migrants are particularly at risk.
There have been improvements in some slums, instances where services are easier to access and the infrastructure has been upgraded. But for most people living in these circumstances, daily life remains extremely challenging. What’s more, the total number of people living in slum conditions is still growing.
Since decades, MSF has been responding to urban health problem in a host of different ways-treating malnourished children in Dhaka, for example, or responding to cholera outbreaks and sexual violence in Port-au-Prince, or providing medical care to vulnerable migrant populations in central Johannesburg, to name just a few. MSF is currently working in over 20 cities around the world.
Photo credits: NOOR Photo Agency.