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Forum Fam Plan West Hemisph. 1993 May;9(1):4-5.

The witches' district: the urbanization process.

Abstract

PIP:

The recommended approach to solving Panama's, or Latin America's, housing problem was to use an integrated program of services which considered not just housing, but also sanitation, roads, clean water supply, accessibility, educational and health services, financial resources, and human, legal, and administrative resources. Rapid population growth in cities from migration has created the "witches' district." Living conditions in "witches' districts" are characterized by poverty, crowded sleeping and living conditions, filth, lack of sanitary services, naked children, and files that hover around food, children, and garbage. Limited resources creates a mentality of partial solutions, rationing, and a closed attitude toward an integrated solution. Housing means more than a roof over one's head. There is planning, design, finance, administration, housing construction, and services. A shelter exists in a larger framework of a human habitat. The priority should be in order of importance: the physical structure of housing in a socially organized form, basic services including health and education, and availability of resources. Housing lobbyists have prevented integrated solutions because of their emphasis on the lack of housing units, and the identification of substandard housing. There is a narrow focus that deliberately reduces both the availability of housing and necessary services, whether at the local or community, regional, or national level. Housing is an urban problem, caused by urban population's high growth rates between 2.5% and 3.5%. There has been constant migration which has led to growth rates of 10% annually in large cities. Confounding the issue is the expectation from migrants that there will be dwelling space better than prior housing, drinkable water, electricity, rapid transit, and free services. Educational and health services which were adequate in rural life are unsuitable for urban living. Cars and trucks require paved roads. Living requires greater cash income for a decent life. The concentration of population in cities greatly increases the need for dependence on each other. The pricing system does not reflect the damage or benefits that one person can cause; the use of urban land in one instance affects adjacent land uses, for private property and more so for common land. Urban political power is strong and new arrivals can be come frustrated in their effects to achieve hopes for a better life, and urgently demand action.

PMID:
12179847
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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