HEALTH AND HYGIENE RELATED PROBLEMS AMONG SLUM WOMEN
Authors: Ratna Shukla
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Slums are the areas of substandard housing conditions within a city .The United Nations defines the slum as ... a building, group of buildings or area characterized by overcrowding, deterioration, unsanitary conditions or absence of facilities or amenities which, because of these conditions or any of them in danger, the health, the safety or morals of its inhabitants or the community. Various terms such as 'blighted area', 'deteriorated areas', ' marginal areas', 'transitional areas', 'substandard settlement', 'provisional settlement', 'squatter settlement', 'overnight settlement', 'urban villages' etc. are very loosely used to denote slums. It has been found by number of researchers that due to poor economic and educational status, awareness regarding health and hygiene is found to be very poor among slum dwellers. Slums are very prone to unhygienic and unhealthy conditions because of their socio-ecological settings. Slum areas have been the breeding grounds of epidemics such as cholera, jaundice, hepatic disorder. Infectious diseases like tuberculosis, chest disease like asthma, lung cancer due to excessive use of tobacco, alcohol and spirit are very common. Abject poverty, social and economic deprivations, lack of essential food and nutrients and the unhygienic and contaminated water force them to live on the mercy of nature than on human resources. The water borne diseases like amoebiasis, helmenthiasis, diarrhoea, dysentery, viral hepatitis, and typhoid are very much common among them. Eighty to ninety percent of the slum inhabitants have no access to human waste disposal facilities. These conditions render the surroundings polluted and un conducive for human habitation resulting in environmental degradation. These slum dwellers are also not aware of small family norms. The size of their family is very large. Child marriages are prevalent among them. In spite of hard work by the women in slum, their condition is very bad. They have very low literacy rate and their economic condition is also not good. Most of the slum women get married at the age of 13 to 15 years. But the condition of unmarried girls is also far from satisfactory. They are treated as an unpaid worker who helps in cooking food, cleaning utensils and looking up their young brothers and sisters when the parents go to their work. Socially, these women's are very much deprived and engaged in anti-social work and are the easy victim of unhealthy physical as well as social environment.