Recently, I came across a post at Rob's watchful blog about an ambitous plan in the Philippines to build 700,000 homes in 7,000 villages by 2010, to help rid the nation of its slums. Sounded impressive. 60% of the population there considers itself to live in poverty, while a conservative estimate puts 17% of the total populace in an urban slum.
In general, the Philippino government has done more to wall off the shantytowns from public view than it has to truly address the problem. But in recent years, natural disasters like typhoons, flooding and fires have forced the visibility of national poverty back to the surface, while more and more each day go on to join millions of people inhabiting garbage dumps, dangerous flood zones, and cardboard shelters that could go up in flames as easily by an errant cigarette butt as a serious natural disaster.
Gawad Kalinga is an international NGO that started off as a local movement in the Philippines to abolish the slums. After rebuilding several communities following a ruthless rash of typhoons in 2000 and 2004, the organization has moved its model to various countries through out the region, and is being studied by the UN for its community-based model, which builds more than just shelter, but offers empowerment services like health and educational facilities, capital for community-based products, and uses sweat equity to help people rebuild villages for themselves.
I wrote a lengthier article on the topic which you can read now at Inhabitat. There are lots of other useful links to articles and studies included which should help shed more light on the subject of urban slums, and some inspiring work being done as a remedy. Check it out.