Yesterday, a group of health experts met at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington as part of the Maternal Health Policy Dialogue. The topic was “Accessing Maternal Health Care in Urban Slums,” but some presenters questioned whether the word slum is an accurate term. When we hear the word, we often imagine the sprawling, corrugated tin roofs of the Kibera slum outside of Nairobi. However, the urban poor often occupy small pockets of unused land throughout cities and are not highly concentrated in certain areas.
In general, the urban poor are unable to access the necessary health services because there are no facilities in close proximity, high costs, poor transport, insecurity or some combination of factors. Given the rates of urbanization in Africa and South Asia, 50% of populations may live in urban settings by 2030. However, the trajectories of urbanization have been different in the developing world both within and between regions. Therefore, needs assessments and extensive planning will be required to ensure access to (maternal) health care for the urban poor in developing countries. One such organization undertaking this challenge is Jacaranda Health, an MHTF grantee, that is working “to create a fully self-sustaining and scalable chain of clinics that provide reproductive health services to poor urban women.”