What Global Health can learn from Slum Dwellers

Welcome to Lagos” is the best documentary on Africa I’ve seen. When the BBC first brought it out two years ago they presented it as the first of a series on life in mega cities. Sadly, they must have had second thoughts (or, more likely, budget cuts) because I’m still eagerly awaiting the next instalment. (You can see the whole series here.)

I know exactly why I love Welcome to Lagos. The documentary makers have the same core belief about the urban poor that I do: they are the most innovative and resourceful people on the planet. Watching the series you can’t help but gape in awe at how the people adapt to what most of us would consider inhospitable conditions (to put it mildly). From the rapper who finances his debut album by scavenging scrap at the dump, to the college student who finances his study by cutting trees and floating the logs down to Lagos, the documentary catalogues these and other triumphs of human ingenuity. It also harnesses the full power of the medium to drive home a point that countless others have made before: the urban poor are not to be pitied, but admired and, above all, respected. Could you make a go of it in Lagos?

We in the global health community could learn a thing or two from the slum dwellers. With health care budgets around the globe stretched to/beyond the breaking limits we need to be more innovative and resourceful than ever. And the beautiful irony that Welcome to Lagos makes clear is that the keys to unlocking these two mystical forces lie with the very people we are coming to help.

Mr. Luke DisneyThis post was written by Luke Disney, Executive Director of North Star Alliance.


  1. Ya Ya Ya, Mr Luke. I guess the west will love a documentary like that because this is exactly the story of negativity the Western media makes people like you believe about Africa, especially Nigeria. “Welcome to lagos” is probably the most messed up documentary BBC ever did about Nigeria. The west, its media and greedy corporations continue to manipulate reality to create a global mindset that Africans must be pitied and will destroy themselves expect the world powers step in to help them. Yes, Africa like every other part of the world has its own problems, but the west continue to use its media to over-blow these issues to justify their numerous injustice in Africa.

    Let’s face the real deal here Mr Luke. Africa can survive without your aids, Tells your Government and its army of greed corporation to stop importing arms into Africa. The west don’t care about whether Africans destroy themselves or not, they only care about our valuable natural resources which they will do everything to get.

    So if you are truly passionate about Africa, start with this – STEP OUT TO TELL THE WORLD ABOUT THE INJUSTICE OF THE WESTERN GOVERNMENTS IN AFRICA.

    1. Hi Adedoyin,
      Funnily enough I think we (and the documentary indirectly) are saying the same thing: the people of Lagos are not to be pitied but admired. Anyways, thanks for your comment as it gives me the opportunity to underline the point.

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