Doctors Without Borders Launches "Urban Survivors"

Share Article

Multimedia Documentary Series Sheds Light on the Humanitarian Crisis in Slums

Through its work in urban settings over the last few decades, MSF has experienced how a growing urban population has created an increased need for humanitarian interventions in slum environments.

Over the last several decades, rapid and sustained urbanization has swelled existing slums and spurred the creation of new ones around the world. Today, one in ten people on the planet live in a slum. To highlight the critical humanitarian and medical needs that exist in urban settings all over the world, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is launching Urban Survivors - a multimedia project in collaboration with the award-winning NOOR photo agency and Darjeeling Productions.

The Urban Survivors web documentaries take visitors on a virtual journey through five slums - in Dhaka (Bangladesh), Karachi (Pakistan), Johannesburg (South Africa), Port-au-Prince (Haiti), and Nairobi (Kenya) - where MSF is actively running projects. Featuring the work of award-winning NOOR photographers, Urban Survivors lets the visitor discover more about the daily lives of people in these slums, the humanitarian issues they face, and what MSF is doing to address these problems.

“Slum residents live in a constant state of vulnerability,” said Loris De Filippi, operational director for MSF. “Not only do they live in places that are unfit for human habitation, they also face discrimination and neglect from other parts of society. Through the Urban Survivors project, we want to put a human face on the humanitarian emergency that exists in many slums around the world.”

Khurshed is a resident of Kamrangirchar, one of the 5,000 slums of Bangladesh’s capital city, Dhaka. He works hard to make a living for himself and his family by pulling a rickshaw through the city’s narrow alleyways, seven days a week. Here, like in many slums in other parts of the world, pollution and unhygienic living conditions breed diarrheal and respiratory diseases. MSF’s surveys have shown that more than 50 percent of Kamrangirchar’s children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition.

“This place is a poor area, where people struggle to fulfill their own basic needs,” said Khurshed. “People here earn so little that even buying a change of clothes is a big challenge. Being able to get treatment, food, medicine and care when they are ill, or when their children are ill, is a big problem.”

Slum inhabitants often must adjust to a life of poverty in places where violence and crime is pervasive. Dina, from the Martissant slum in Port-au-Prince, suffers from nightmares and panic attacks after having been raped. "My area is very disadvantaged. There is a climate of violence all around. In the evening, it is dangerous to go out,” she explained.

In Martissant, rape at gunpoint is a common occurrence. According to an MSF study published in 2009, violence – especially shootings and domestic violence – was the main cause of death for adults in Martissant, playing a role in 23 percent of all deaths in the area. In 2010, MSF’s medical teams in Martissant treated more than 3,000 victims of violent trauma.

MSF responds to urban health problems in a number of different ways, from providing care to vulnerable migrants in inner-city Johannesburg, treating HIV-patients in the poorest parts of Nairobi, or assisting displaced flood victims on the streets of Karachi. In many of these slums, MSF is the only organization that provides healthcare free of charge.

“Through its work in urban settings over the last few decades, MSF has experienced how a growing urban population has created an increased need for humanitarian interventions in slum environments,” said De Filippi. “Subsequently, MSF has increased its resources to work in such settings and is now running projects in more than 20 cities across the world.”

Emily Linendoll
Press Officer
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF-USA)
Tel: +1 212-763-5764
Cell: +1 646-206-9387

# # #

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Emily Linendoll
Visit website