Third World infrastructure and housing

Shacks in South Africa

Infrastructure and housing in the Third World are not comparable with the conditions common in the industrialized nations.

In countries of the Third World there are fewer paved roads. In the rainy saison it is difficult to drive on streets. Electricity and water are not available for all people in the slums and they often do not have the money to pay for them. Water is often dirty and full of chlorine. To purify water people have to cook it; but for cooking it they need gas and, therefore, money. Toilets and sewers cannot be taken for granted. The networks of roads and rails are of a very low standard or or do not even exist.

Township in South Africa
People who live in slums often come from rural areas. Their culture is often different from that of the locals. The pictures on this page give an impression of what shacks may look like:

Shacks are built of adobe, corrugated iron, rope and other material that is either cheap or to be found in rubbish deposits. Due to their little size there is usually just enough space for "beds" and maybe a chair or a kind of table.

An example of living conditions in Uganda - impressions from the film "Hab und Gut in aller Welt"

The passage we watched was about a family that lives in a refugee camp in Uganda. They have three children and live in poverty. They are living here because of the father: He was an official with a good education but could not stay in his country of origin because the new government began to murder people by hazard. His wife is the daughter of a "rich" family (a farmer’s). They had a piece of land, some animals and a nice house to live in. So she had everything she now can barely dream of. She also had to flee because of the war and ended up in a refugee camp in Ruanda where she met her husband. After the government of Ruanda decided to deport all refugees, both had to flee once more.

In the camp in Uganda they are exposed to more problems. There are too many people in a small space. Malaria, typhoid and cholera affect their lives. Water is contaminated by cattle. It is actually illegal and dangerous to use it because it belongs to the local farmers.

The father works on a banana plantation, which means hard physical labour. He is not used to these hard conditions because of his former job in the office. He gets bananas or money for wages, depending on the farmers mood. Mama has to look after the children, trade at the market to feed her family and to risk her life by fetching the only water available. All women are afraid of being beaten by the farmer or by one of his employees.

At that time, when the documentary was filmed, many huts had just burnt. Because of the cramped space, many caught fire very quickly. All members of the refugee camp then had to sleep on the ground even during cold nights. We think that this documentary gives us a good impression of conditions in parts of the Third World. Many people there are always hungry. They are badly affected by political and health problems. It was not very easy for us to sit in school and to watch how the father worked very hard to get his children to school because wealth is spread very unevenly throughout this world.


UN-Habit defines the term slum as "colony, in which more than half of the inhabitants live in unacceptable accomodation without any basic utility services". They live without property rights, access to potable water, access to sanitation and without enough housing space.
Asia's Largest Slum Dharavi by Wkikipedia under GNU-license
Almost one out of six people in this world has to live in such a slum. Slums can be found in many big cities in the Third World. They are characterized by a high rate of unemployment, poverty, crime, drug abuse and alcoholism. Examples of typical slums are the “favelas” or “invasoes” in Brazil, the “invasiones” and “guasmos” in Ecuador, the “barriadas” in Peru, and the “shanty towns” in the southern part of Africa. Where social differences are big enough, slums can be found in wealthy countries as well, for example in the USA. Slums develop as a result of migration from rural areas, i.e. rural depopulation. There are different types of slums. In some of them, the definition from UN-Habit fits. But in some of them everyone helps one another, and water and sanitation is available. Sometimes the local government does too little to solve problems with slums or the slums are suddenly demolished to make them disappear.