URBAN SURVIVORS Exhibition: Begin a slum journey with MSF

More than 1 out of 10 people in the planet are living in slum conditions!

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) moves a shabby slum made of wood and faux brick panels into the glamorous shopping mall Pacific Place! Visitors, while enjoying luxurious shopping, can also broaden their horizons and take a glance at how people living in the slum areas struggle for basics necessities like water, sanitation and medical care which are deficient in quality and quantity.

In 2009, for the first time more than half of the world’s population lived in cities rather than in rural areas. As cities continue to expand, slums will expand with them, and even with new ones emerge. Most of the slums are located at the edge of cities, or seen as “informal settlements” by the governments, so there is often lack of basic public services.

Most shacks in the Kibera slum, for example, do not have toilets, so slum inhabitants have to use public toilets. But as they cannot go out at night due to poor security, they have created “flying toilets” to manage sewage – defecating in plastic bags and throwing them out of the window. One can imagine how poor the hygiene conditions are as the government will not clean up the streets. Moreover, clean water supply is often unstable in many slums, so inhabitants need to buy their own clean water for drinking and washing, which has become an additional burden for their daily lives.

With the lack of water, electricity, toilets and medical facilities, overcrowded living conditions and poor hygiene, slum inhabitants, especially the vulnerable ones like women, children and undocumented immigrants, face serious health risks.

However, their great humanitarian needs are often neglected or underreported. By launching the URBAN SURVIVORS exhibition in two local shopping malls, MSF hopes to highlight these humanitarian issues and let voices of the slum inhabitants to be heard through text and audio-visuals. MSF invites Hong Kong people to join and start the slum journey.

Dr. FAN Ning, President of MSF-Hong Kong who has been to the biggest slum area in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, says, “Booming of slum areas due to urban expansion has become a global trend. With poor hygiene, overcrowded environment and lack of medical services, the situation in many slums is so grave that it cannot be described as anything less than a medical humanitarian crisis. These pose threats to health conditions of the slum inhabitants who are in urgent need of assistance and support from outside world.”

The exhibition is launched today (12 October) at Pacific Place to bring the plight of slum inhabitants from South Africa, Kenya and Pakistan to public attention. It will then move to Cityplaza at Taikoo, to showcase the stories of slums from Bangladesh and Haiti.

Photos exhibited are taken by 5 award-winning photographers from agency NOOR. They witnessed a lot of shocking stories in the slums during their journey. Stanley Greene, the photographer for Bangladesh project, said, “In New York City an urban survivor is somebody who lives on the street picking up cans and bottles to survive. When you look at urban survival in a place like Bangladesh it takes on another connotation. And when you try to understand how people can live in houses built of sticks in swamps and garbage, and try to survive until death, it seems all very difficult.”


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