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The Slums of Delhi

Slum dwellers have to live in the worst conditions you can imagine

Life without hope

Mass migration to Delhi, a beacon of hope and last resort for poverty-stricken Indians, has resulted in millions living in substandard, squalid conditions.

These slum dwellers are largely overlooked by the authorities, for whom the problem is too big to deal with, so they are not cared for at all. Their homes are little more than huts, there are usually no roads, water, sewers, electricity or other services.

In theory they have access to all these things, as well as healthcare, education, employment and the self-respect that comes with them. In practice the services are either non-existent, inadequate and unable to cope, or so far from the slums that they are all but irrelevant.

In addition, the slum dwellers themselves often lack the incentive to take advantage of what is available: many have been there for generations, so hope may have been buried in the misery and despair of slum life. It’s also cultural: people are often not motivated to improve their circumstances due to their religious and societal convictions.

The slums of Delhi - Life without hope
The appalling conditions of the slums

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For much of our work we rely on generous donations from people like you.

Asha is working relentlessly towards bringing holistic development in the urban slums of Delhi. We’ll ensure that whatever you can afford will be put to the best possible use and give even more people hope for a better future.

Asha India - family in India slum

Delhi and India Slum Conditions

A slum consists of individuals living under the same roof in an urban area who lack one or more of the following: durable housing (a permanent structure providing protection from weather); sufficient living area (no more than three people sharing a room); access to available, sufficient and affordable water; access to a private or public toilet shared with a reasonable number of people; and protection against forced eviction.
(UN-HABITAT, 2006/7)

Housing and Infrastructure

The Indian government is required to recognize slum settlements and theirresidents’ rights to potable water and sanitation, but in Delhi no new slums have been recognized since 1994 (Bhan, 2013). Officially, there are about 750 big and small slums in Delhi, which have at least 350,000 families (3.5 lakhs) and 2 million people (20 lakhs) living in them – 28% of the population (Times of India, 21/5/19). 45% of these households have 4-5 members, 22% have 6-8 members and 5% have more than 9 members. (India Census, 2011). Around 55% of its slum households have open or no drainage systems, and about 43% lack drinking water within the premises. In India overall, 45% of slum houses have just one room, almost 30% have two rooms and about 5% have no separate rooms. Some 50% of households use firewood, kerosine, and other fuels for cooking, leading to severe health problems.


India slum residents continue to have poor access to government health services for prevention and treatment of diseases which now include those brought about by a rapidly growing economy. Diabetes, coronary heart disease and hypertension are to some extent driven by sedentary lifestyles, poor dietary patterns, and obesity. Communicable diseases including malaria, typhoid fever, and viral diseases such as jaundice, dengue, and diarrhea are prevalent in the slums.


Disorders While about 21% of adults are undernourished, 15% show a tendency to be overweight. Among under-five children, undernutrition is a problem with almost half of them showing signs of various grades of protein-energy malnutrition (PEM); about 28% of those surveyed had episodes of diarrhea in the past 6 months.


Although India now has 1.4 million schools and 7.7 million teachers so that 98% of habitations have a primary school within walking distance, nationally 29% of children drop out before completing five years of primary school, and 43% before finishing upper primary school. The high school completion rate is only 42%. The literacy rate in Delhi slums is 56%, with dropout rates from classes I-X at 46% and enrolment in higher education (ages 18-23) at 45%. (Delhi Government Report) Educational quality is a major concern, and reports show that children are not achieving class-appropriate learning levels.
(Annual Status of Education, 2013)

Financial Access 

Only about 53% of the total slum population in the country uses banking facilities, often due to the lack of documents needed to open an account. Most slum dwellers are self-employed or employed in informal work sectors and require daily credit for their livelihood. Only about 28% can get a bank loan and thus rely on moneylenders and private sources at exorbitant rates, often resulting in significant debt and intimidation and violence if payments are overdue.
(Reserve Bank of India)

Gender bias

Women are often more than just the breadwinners for the urban poor families. They also run their households, hold families together, and raise children. Slum life is often dangerous for women. According to the National Family Health Survey (2015-16), 48% of all Indian women experience physical, emotional, and sexual violence at the hands of their spouses. The Covid-19 pandemic is expected to increase the difficulty women face in generating income, resulting in heightened financial insecurity in an already difficult struggle for daily survival.
(UN-HABITAT, 2020)

UN Sustainable Development Goals

The United Nations holds out 17 Sustainable Development Goals as targets with indicators to evaluate success. Some of these goals are: ending poverty and hunger, good health, quality education and gender equality. To achieve these goals, persisting slum conditions need to be addressed. India’s urban population is expected to be around 800 million by 2051 with a significant need for housing in the informal sector in the form of slums. The need is urgent for all countries, developing and developed to partner to reach these goals and improve lives.


Every person has a right to healthcare that will allow the best possible chance of living a productive and fulfilling life.


Communities working together are capable of achieving great change, and can influence others to also strive for change.

Quality of life

The poor deserve the chance to improve their financial status and their quality of life, and to break free from the cycle of poverty. 

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Asha’s Mission is to work with the urban poor to bring about long-term and sustainable transformation to their quality of life.