Characterising inequalities in multi-dimensional neighbourhood environment in Accra, Ghana


Supervisor: Majid Ezzati

Non-accademic partner: Universities Space Research Association (USRA) – NASA

Studentship start date: October 2021

Application deadline: 15th February 2021

Application details:

The studentship will be available full time.

The majority of the world’s population now lives in cities. By 2050 two thirds of the entire world’s population will be urban, with the fastest growth happening in Sub-Saharan Africa where the urban population has increased five-fold since the 1980s. One such city is Accra, the capital of Ghana. Living in Accra offers many opportunities, including better access to healthcare and education, greater nutritional options and for some economic security. These opportunities, however, are not uniformly distributed. In Accra, deep inequalities often preside between different neighbourhoods. Rapid and unplanned urban growth often place the health of the people at risk. Newly minted urbanites often find themselves living in informal settlements, more commonly referred to as slums. Neighbourhoods are physical places with administrative boundaries as well as social spaces for their residents. In Accra, neighbourhoods face a host of physical and social challenges: For example, some may experience high levels of air pollution; others may be unable to safely dispose of waste, or suffer from roads without proper means of crossing, threatening pedestrian safety. Moreover, informal slums are generally affected by lower rates of service provision, poor quality housing and sanitation, all of which is detrimental to health. While they may share similar problems, no two neighbourhoods are alike. To improve the health of those living in the city, one must take the rich and varied context of its neighbourhoods and residents into account and explore how the many different factors that influence neighbourhood health vary over space and time. Despite Accra’s rapid urbanisation, there have been few detailed studies to examine how the combination of these factors which impact on health vary within the city. Our project aims to shed light on these factors, in a holistic way. First, we will look to the existing literature to comprehend environmental and social determinants of health in a neighbourhood, how we can measure it and what data exists. We will conduct interviews in Accra across a sample of neighbourhoods to contextualise neighbourhood health and to give voice to citizens’ perspectives on what supports and threatens health in a neighbourhood. With this knowledge of social and environmental factors, we will look at qualitative and quantitative signs of healthiness. We will use high resolution satellite imagery, and techniques from computer vision to understand how some of these indicators vary across the entirety of Accra. Furthermore, we will use personal interviews and public data from social media to qualitatively explore what some residents believe matters for the health of their neighbourhoods. The in-depth qualitative analysis, combined with imagery techniques estimating social and environmental conditions, will contribute to painting a picture of Accra’s health factors that could support interventions for more equitable living conditions in neighbourhoods.