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The link between poor housing, environmental conditions, and health has been long established.1 In Glasgow, one of the worst areas of slum housing was in the Gorbals. The photograph on the left, taken around 1925, shows a young woman at a communal sink in a backcourt, behind her the door to an outside toilet. At the back of courtyard, rubbish is piling up in the midden. Overcrowding was a major problem with large families squeezed into one and two roomed houses. In 1931, almost 85 000 people lived in this area of Glasgow, which covered only 2% of the city’s total territory.2 These conditions led, as in other parts of the UK, to the extensive slum clearance programmes of the 1950s and 1960s.
Contrast this with the second picture, taken in the Gaza Buildings, Beirut, Lebanon in 2003. Here, Palestinian families displaced from the official Shatila camp in 1985 during the “war of the camps”, and their descendants, have made their home. Home, in this case, is the bomb damaged buildings of the former Gaza hospital. Overcrowding is rife, with families forced to subdivide accomodation units into smaller and smaller living spaces to accommodate new generations of the family. The small boy is pictured in front of his home, built in the backcourt of one of the buildings from corrugated iron panels. What are his life chances?