It is natural for charities, NGOs and healthcare specialists to concentrate on the communicable diseases found in slum dwellings across South Africa and indeed, the world. These include cholera, ebola, HIV/AIDs, and tuberculosis. However, while they are vital, it is also important not to forget that this kind of malnutrition, lack of access to secure living, safe lifestyles, clean water, and employment also cause a wide range of other diseases and problems which cannot be transferred from person to person.
Background to the Slum Issue in South Africa
Across the globe, an estimated 1 billion people, that’s almost 1 in 7 people worldwide, live in a slum or slum-like conditions. This ranges from Rio favelas to refugee camps in Jordan. However, when it comes to slums most people think of South Africa. However, this is perhaps an unfair assumption based on Soweto. In actual fact, the country only has 2 of the top 20 slums in Africa with more found in Liberia and Ghana, double the number in Nigeria, and treble that in Kenya. The 2 South African entrants into the list were Kennedy Road in Durban and Alexandra in Gauteng.
Non-Communicable Diseases Related to Slum Dwelling
Types of non-transferrable health problems intimately connected to this lifestyle can be divided into chronic non-infectious diseases and behavioural problems. Fixing these issues takes time and effort, but first, they require understanding.
Chronic Non-Infectious Diseases include:
- Asthma leading to respiratory failure due to allergies, but also pollution
Diabetes leading to organ failure
- Hypertension often brought on by stress and poor habits leading to heart disease, strokes, and kidney failure
- Ignored injuries which can become infected or can heal poorly leading to poor mobility or inability to work
- Mental health problems including stress, anxiety, suicidal feelings, violence, self-abuse, and abuse of others.
- Reproductive issues including unwanted pregnancies, peripartum complications and congenital complications such as toxoplasmosis.
Behavioural problems on the other hand include:
- Alcoholism leading to violence, liver and heart diseases
- Tobacco use and related respiratory diseases and complications
- Drug use leading to injuries, violence, brain damage, organ failure, death, and the contraction of diseases from dirty needles
These diseases are embedded into the lifestyle and cultures of slum areas across South Africa which makes them hard to deal with. Many are caused by the underlying facts of life in such areas. It is also true to say that dealing with the underlying issues and access to clean water, safe accommodation, and improved nutrition are key to preventing many of these problems.