UN-Habitat uses overcrowding as one of its criteria for slums. As multitudes move into cities like Bangkok from the countryside and infant mortality rates improve, there is simply not enough affordable housing for increased numbers of people. Moving as many people as possible in together is a characteristic strategy in response to this situation. In 2003, around twenty per cent of the world’s urban population was living in overcrowded homes. Overcrowding is not simply inconvenient; it is a health and social development hazard linked with an increase in infectious diseases, domestic abuse and hampered child development.
In Klong Toey this can be seen in the stress it places on our neighbours, especially children, who seem to constantly struggle with illness, violence and premature death. The most obvious effects of overcrowding include mental illness, interference with social relationships and the transmission of diseases (including the single biggest cause of infant and child death in the developing world: acute respiratory infection). Less obvious are the effects on child development, including poorer cognitive development, behavioural problems, delayed psychomotor development and child abuse. Overcrowding can therefore have serious long-term negative effects on whole generations of residents in places like Klong Toey.