As Africa’s population is growing to over 1 billion people, recent surveys have suggested that 40% of this population lives in urban areas.
Whilst the continent remains afflicted by drought, famine, and diseases, many of their problems are experienced within rural areas.
Yet, the de-population of the African countryside has been dramatic since the early 2000s and this migration to the urban areas has been motivated by job opportunities, food security and tribal instability.
Now, the urban infrastructure is under pressure and a serious risk has risen with regards to possible cross contamination between the sanitary and water systems. Recent cholera and yellow fever epidemics in the larger urban slums of West Africa have caused widespread suffering and food scarcity in South African slums has resulted in widespread xenophobic attacks.
In a wilderness survival situation, caused by a plane or vehicle crash, it is often advisable to stay by your wreck and await the arrival of the emergency rescue personnel. But more thought needs to be given to urban survival situations.
In some African countries, such as Nigeria,Sierra Leone and South Sudan, the rise of informal militias are often a precursor to civil war or a low intensity conflict in the region.
Specific areas are targeted and rapidly become Hostile Environments where the risk of loss of limb, life and liberty is high. NGOs, charities, news agencies and religious organisations often become the first victims of such local conflict before the militias move towards the city.
The city areas represent rich pickings and great political influence.
Like many urban areas, African cities hold supplies sufficient for 3 days. After 72 hours of no power, refrigeration systems in domestic and commercial environments fail completely.
Also, air conditioning, gate controls, electrical fencing and other powered security devices are rendered ineffective and families’ exposure to marauding and hungry gangs becomes heightened.
In such circumstances, you need to make the decision to barricade yourself inside the safe room or leave the house and live outside.
Whilst safe rooms are an accepted domestic security solution, unless an underground tunnel or secondary escape route has been designed, safe rooms can become coffins. Too often, following an invasion of a property, gangs have identified the occupants of a safe room and simply lit a fire outside the door. In this way, the family inside are forced to leave the safe room or die.
Other occasions, such as a medical pandemic, citizens of an urban area move to a centralised structure for their own safety and security.
Yet, experience of many post-disaster zones has proven that Man’s inhumanity to Man exists in such crowded centres as it does in everyday living. In these centres, rape, murder and intimidation are not uncommon and victims need to develop strategies to protect themselves within such environments.
However, should you decide to remain at home, in order to survive in a Hostile Environment, you need to consider the depth of your compassion.
- How much food will you share with your neighbour and for how long?
- What steps will you take to protect your family and possessions?
- When will you decide to leave for the rural areas?
One possible strategy for surviving in an urban area is adopting a stealth mode.
Barricade your windows, minimise daytime movements and use cooking fires without exaggerating any light or smell.
You can drink water from your swimming pool, water tanks and cisterns but you need bleach or other purification systems to ensure that this water is drinkable.
You should not eat perishable products from the fridge after a few days but rather live off tinned food or dry goods that have been stored in your kitchen. Learn to cook outside on a fire and prepare food for a day in advance.
Hygiene will also be vital during such a period of instability as unhealthy personal practices will only exacerbate the Hostile Environment in which you find yourself.
Urban survival is about prioritising your needs before assessing the needs of others.
As a result, to improve your hygiene requirements, you should create an external human waste facility.
Dig a trench and line the bottom with wooden slats and mothballs. In this way, as the trench fills up with the waste, you simply replace the earth and dig a trench elsewhere.
The wooden platform and camphor ensure that the human waste is disposed of in a odourless manner.
Lastly, urban survival is different from wilderness survival. Your main predator is the Man.
Your conflict resolution skills might work in the workplace, but you will require a different set of skills when handling a thirst-crazed neighbour with whom you have previously broken bread.