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World's largest slum packed with 2.4m people where locals are forced to build own sewers

Orangi Town in Karachi, Pakistan, has earned the unwelcome reputation of being the world’s largest slum. The cluster of settlements on the outskirts of Karachi is home to an astonishing 2.4 million people.

The United Nations defines a slum as areas within a city lacking clean water, sanitation facilities, adequate living space, durable houses and/or housing security. According to the UN, approximately 1.1 billion people currently live in slums or slum-like conditions in cities, with 2 billion more expected in the next 30 years.

The sprawling slum in Karachi extends over 57 square kilometres and many residents struggle with severe overcrowding. Locals live in houses made from concrete blocks, with roughly eight to ten people sharing two-bedroom houses.

In Orangi Town, the dreadful living conditions, combined with a lack of clean water, have led to outbreaks of deadly diseases such as cholera, dengue fever, drug-resistant typhoid, and water-borne diseases like Naegleria fowleri, a brain-destroying amoeba.

The community rapidly grew in size in 1971 thanks to the arrival of thousands of refugees fleeing from the newly independent state of Bangladesh. However, due to its status as an unofficial and unplanned settlement, Orangi did not receive any government funding which led to the slum-like conditions.

Like most slums, there is also a disturbingly high crime rate. One study found that between 2011 and 2014, 77 percent of women in Orangi Town were victims of rape.

In the last month alone, there have been gruesome media reports of killings in the slum. Last month, a woman was murdered by her husband and his two brothers in an alleged ‘honour killing’. Meanwhile, on Friday last week, the police arrested two men for the kidnapping and murder of a primary school student in Orangi town.

While Orangi Town lacks substantial aid, the community has sought to rally itself together.

There are 13 official neighborhoods, each with its own council, which has allowed the township to finance and build its own sewer system. Locals maintain their own sewers. Ninety percent of Orangi’s streets are now connected to sewage services.

A growing number of residents are also employed making carpets, leather goods and other products. 

Residents are now campaigning for the Pakistani government to fund schools and homes as a way to lift up the lives of millions in the slum.


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