Women News Network – WNN MDG Stories
Friday, 19 November, 2010
A new November 2010 report by WHO – the World Health Organization and UN-HABITAT – United Nations Human Settlements Programme, “Hidden Cities – Unmasking and Overcoming Health Inequities in Urban Settings,” shows that urban poverty can impact health statistics worldwide.
Today’s urban cities are suffering from a dramatic rise in a disproportionate health crisis coming from its poorest citizens. Women suffering under poverty are especially sensitive to impacts of urbanization as statistics show women in densely populated areas have a 1.5 times higher rate of HIV/AIDS than men. Women in cities also face higher dangers of contracting AIDS, a figure almost twice as high as their rural sisters.
On the edge of the global economic shakedown, as numerous cities and urban areas suffer from rising population, women who suffer from poverty experience greater encounters with overcrowded substandard housing, infectious diseases, food and water safety issues, inadequate sanitation and increasing solid waste disposal problems.
“In 2010, more than half (the world’s population) live in cities, and by 2050, 7 out of every 10 people will live in urban areas,” outlines the new report. “Most of this explosive growth is occurring in developing countries, where municipalities and other government authorities are often overwhelmed by the rapid population boom.”
With the transfer of both men and women from rural to urban regions steadily increasing at a rate of 60 million per year, globalization is reaching a tight squeeze creating a real possibility that massive problems in overcrowding will overshadow our next century. Urban city dwellers will most assuredly face failures with services and infrastructure creating dire consequences that may outlive generations.
For the very first time in history, a majority of the world’s populations are living in cities. And this figure is rising. Ultimately, the problems of urbanization will affect the life and health of rich and poor alike, but the poorest populations will suffer much more from inequities.
Developing nations, spurred by increasing problems of climate change, are also growing the world’s largest slums, as the rural poor break with generations of steady work in agricultural endeavors to move to cities under mythological promises of better employment.
“Urban poverty has become highly feminized,” says the new WHO/UN-HABITAT report. Women, who have worked in farming agri-industries, find that upon their arrival to urban areas they are often quickly and sharply excluded from jobs, denied training programs and placed in situations that bring ongoing and demeaning exclusions.
While cities offer rural women new experiences and opportunities to create larger support networks, they also face heightened struggles toward empowerment. With urban environments come increased dangers of violence to women due to domestic and economic struggles at home. Rape too is an ominous urban threat.
“In many cities, the urban poor face challenges in accessing health services due to their inability to pay out-of-pocket expenses for services,” says the 2010 report on urban health inequities from WHO/UN-HABITAT. “This is in contrast to rural settings, where the main access issue facing residents is that health facilities are far from their homes and communities.”
In Bangladesh, surprisingly the number of women who have diabetes increases as the nation becomes more developed and more urbanized as wealthier women, 45yrs and older, outnumber poor women who have the disease. But care, for those with less money who do suffer from diabetes, is markedly unequal.
“Many urban dwellers at some point will face a dire choice: either to go without essential treatment, or to seek treatment and go into poverty,” continues the WHO/UN-HABITAT report.
Health equity, for urban and non urban women, is an issue that relates across the board stating that all woman must have fair and equal access to health management and programs.
“Opportunities to put health at the heart of the urban policy agenda exists, and it is time for all sectors to work together toward innovative and effective solutions that mitigate health risks and increase health benefits,” says Margaret Chan, Director of the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Of the many risks to health that are linked to rapid urbanization, none is more compelling than urban poverty,” adds Inga Björk–Klevby, Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations and Officer in Charge of UN-HABITAT.
“These unfair health gaps are growing in spite of unprecedented global wealth, knowledge and health awareness,” continues the UN Assistant Secretary General.
To download a complete copy of the new World Health Organization/United Nations-HABITAT report, “Hidden Cities – Unmasking and Overcoming Health Inequities in Urban Settings,” link HERE
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