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Rapid Appraisal of High Risk Urban Communities: The Case of Pasig, Taguig and Caloocan City

As part of the beneficiary-assessment baseline study for the planned Urban Health and Nutrition Program of the Department of Health, the project assessed the high risk communities in the depressed urban poor areas in the municipalities of Pasig and Taguig, and the city of Kalookan. High risk communities are those which are assumed to be highly susceptible to health problems due to the presence of such risk factors as a) residents' low socio-economic status, b) prevailing poor environmental and sanitation conditions, and c) limited access to basic facilities and public utilities. Using a multi-method approach to data collection, the study assessed the communities using the following variables and indicators: a) access to public and private health facilities; b) access to public and private educational facilities; c) access to drinking water; d) environmental and sanitation conditions; e) access to basic physical infrastructure such as roads; f) access to service institutions; g) housing density and materials; h) presence of government and non-government organizations (NGOs), I) presence of unkempt small children in the streets; and j) perceived employment of the residents. Results: In general, the depressed areas studied were located a) along the periphery of the city, particularly along the creeks, small rivers, and esteros or canals; b) near factories, public places and national roads; and c) in resettlement areas--a few of these were situated near garbage dump sites. There were 407 areas consistently listed as depressed areas in Metro Manila involving a population of about 46% of the total population of the metropolis. The depressed areas studied, particularly those considered to be generally or totally blighted depressed barangays, did not have adequate access to basic services and service institutions. Areas along the periphery of the city were found to benefit in some way from the accessibility of services extended to the relatively better-off portion of the barangay, which is usually the barangay proper or center of the community. Environmental sanitation was found to be a critical problem in most of the areas studied. All these areas lacked a drainage system. Substandard housing was evident in many areas. In an attempt to classify the areas according to their level of deprivation of basic services and service institutions, the study categorized two areas as highly deprived, and requiring utmost attention and priority. The overall results of the research lends support to the observations that in contrast to the West, the fast growth of economic activities and of population in the primate city--Metro Manila--has continuously drawn more rural poor to migrate to the metropolis and its suburban areas, thereby resulting in more intense problems of human settlements. Similar to the experience of the urban poor in Third World cities, these poor people end up in the city's periphery, living a life characterized by deprivation of basic services and facilities. Recommendations: The strategy for the provision of a sustainable and effective health and nutrition program and services must include at least three important action and policy components: a) a social policy that is concerned with the provision of essential preventive and curative health services nutrition and family planning, especially intended for the deprived and vulnerable urban poor sector; b) an urban health policy that must deal with critical problems of the depressed areas such as water, toilet facilities, environmental sanitation, drainage system and decent shelter--the key elements for improving the living conditions of the poor and ultimately their quality of life; and c) a policy related to the importance of beneficiary participation in carrying out the urban health and nutrition program.


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