chapter  11
Planning, public health and spatial structures
Pages 22

In Europe, the professions of town planning and public health emerged in response to a common problem – the health consequences of the industrial revolution. Efforts in both professions to wrestle with cholera and other epidemics in Europe from 1830 to 1880 is further testament to their shared goals. During this period, planning focused intensely on functionality and hierarchical ordering of land use through zoning. The overriding goal here was to regulate the type of contact occurring between people and land use activities. The European colonial era began in Africa just about when urban planners were becoming increasingly conscious of the health implications of urban development. However, the health challenges faced by planners and public health authorities on the continent were unique and bore little if any resemblance to what their counterparts in Europe were used to. In Africa, the urgent need to extract profi t – an important objective of the colonial enterprise – necessitated the subjection of Africans to dangerous conditions as porters, cultivators, miners, and so on, for extended periods, in regions far removed from their families and kin. This, amongst other things, exposed Africans to new diseases and environments. Similarly, Europeans who were present in Africa as members of the colonial civil service, soldiers, traders, missionaries and/or explorers were exposed to health, environmental and other problems previously unknown to them. Paradoxically, the health and cognate authorities of the time appeared oblivious in several instances to the stark contrast between public health problems in Africa and those that characterized Europe at the time. Otherwise, it is diffi cult to explain the tendency on the part of these authorities to transfer without alteration, to Africa, health protection strategies (e.g. building codes) that had been crafted for use in Europe. However, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that colonial authorities, especially in Britain, went to great lengths to craft health protection policies specifi cally tailored to conditions that were prevalent in the tropics at the time. These policies, a number of which are discussed in greater detail below, were based on the fi ndings of research at academic institutions such as the Liverpool and London Schools of Tropical Medicine. These institutions had

been created to specifi cally work towards curtailing the toll on Europeans exposed to the insalubrious conditions characteristic of tropical colonies.