The slums of Karachi, Pakistan, are home to 2.2 million people.
One in seven people on the planet live in slums, according to UN Habitat, meaning that more than for a billion people appalling conditions are the daily reality.
The figures are compounded by projections that by 2030, one in four people on Earth is expected to live in a slum, a problem that is particularly critical in cities in developing countries.
The Orangi Town area of Karachi, Pakistan, is considered to be the world’s largest slum, with more than 2.4 million people already living in cramped conditions according to the last estimate.
The slums of Karachi
The city of Karachi in Pakistan has a population of 17 million, making it the largest in the country and the seventh largest in the world by 2023. Its slums are home to millions of people living in extremely unhealthy conditions, a huge challenge for the city and the country.
One of the biggest problems is the constant shortage of water in the Orangi Town area. In addition to the unreliable water supply, the quality of the water coming from the sewers is dangerous, and diarrheal diseases caused by pathogens are a leading cause of death among children.
The housing crisis is leading to overcrowding, often with eight to ten people sharing a tiny one- or two-bedroom household. Poor living conditions, overcrowding and lack of water mean that cholera and dengue fever are common among the population.
Crime is rife in the neighborhood; there is a high level of violence, even between groups, and unfortunately the situation of women is also critical, with a very high rate of rape.
Alleviating these seemingly intractable problems is the work of social scientist Dr. Akhtar Hameed Khan, who launched his grassroots initiative Orangi Pilot Project in the 1980s. This included a number of development programs, micro-credit, housing and family planning initiatives, with major partial successes in sanitation, health and education. Given the size of the slum, progress has been extremely slow and problems are likely to worsen in the future as the population grows.