As India has shifted from an agrarian to a primarily urban based economic system, the country has also experienced a different type of transition: a demographic one. City migration is becoming increasingly common, with cities experiencing the largest population growth during the past fifty years. Population projections by the United Nations estimate that by 2030, India’s urban population will grow to 576 million and constitute 40 percent of the total population. Yet, with this increasing urbanization, the nation is experiencing new challenges that are characterized by the urbanization of poverty with almost one out of four poor persons living in urban slum communities.
The common belief of greater development, better living conditions, and more prevalent resources in urban areas has masked the real picture of urban poor. Urban slums are extremely vulnerable communities, with slum populations ranking among the poorest and most under-served groups in terms of health. Problems with housing, sanitation, pollution, and physical space, as well as access to water, electricity and health services make communities more prone to ill health.
Oftentimes this ill health is manifested most fully within the most vulnerable populations, specifically women and children. Statistics for health of women and children within urban slums are depressingly low with:
- A neonatal mortality rate of 48.8 per thousand (compared with national figures of 67.6 and 43.4 per thousand).
- Low birth weight prevalence as high as 56% as compared to a rural incidence of 38.1%.
- Data collected from 35 cities throughout India suggesting that slum populations have the worst dietary and nutritional profiles with only 13% of children having normal weight for age.
- Only 36-39% of women used any modern method of family planning.
- 29% of women living in slums in Mumbai consumed iron and folic acid (IFA) tablets during pregnancy during at least 90 days.
Thus, these statistics demonstrate a clear need for development of public health infrastructure within the urban poor communities. ARMMAN aims to develop a system for this care through the implementation of our mMitra program within the urban slum population.