World’s Slum Population Increased By 55M Since 2000, Despite Exodus Of 227M, Report Says

“Almost a quarter of a billion people moved out of slum conditions in the past decade,” but the number of people living in shantytowns around the world “increased by 55 million to 827.6 million as population growth and migration from the countryside outstripped the effect of upward mobility in cities,” according to a U.N. Habitat report, released Friday, in Rio de Janeiro ahead of the five-day World Urban Forum “on the state of the world’s cities,” Reuters reports (3/19).

The report said about 227 million people escaped slum conditions over the past decade – twice “as many forecast in the U.N. Millennium Goals set in 2000,” according to the Associated Press/Washington Post (Brooks, 3/19). Anna Tibaijuka, executive director of the U.N. Habitat program, said, “The situation has improved over 10 years, but alas over the same period, the net increase of the urban poor is 55 million,” Reuters writes (3/19).

“The report said that programmes to reduce slum populations and close the gap in living conditions between rich and poor are ‘neither good nor adequate,'” according to Bernama. The report found that China and India, “the world’s two most populous nations,” played a major role in in reducing the global slum population. China “improved conditions for 65.3 million of its [urban residents], reducing the number of slum dwellers from 37.3 percent in 2000 to 28.2 percent in 2010,” Bernama reports. “India, with more than 1 billion people, lifted 59.7 million people out of slums, reducing the number from 41.5 percent of the total population to 28.1 percent,” the news service writes (3/19). 

In Africa, Egypt and Morocco made the largest reductions in the proportions of people living in slums, an excerpt (.pdf) from the report notes. The four most populous countries in Latin America – Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and Brazil – “account for 79% of the region’s improvements in the lives of slum dwellers due to improved housing and better access to water and sanitation,” according to the report (3/18). 

“An alarming trend highlighted by the report is that of ‘refugee cities’ – mostly the result of war and violent conflict. … The report claims there are 7 million ‘known refugees, displaced persons, asylum seekers and returnees combined’ – most of whom are flocking to cities in poor, conflict-prone regions of Africa,” the AP/Washington Post writes.

Unequal growth, especially in the Southern Hemisphere, is another problem, according to the news service. “Even where economic advances have been made, it has too often meant increased economic and social exclusion for many citizens. Such urban divides will have to be addressed collectively ‘to stem the multiple deprivations that follow from unequal growth,’ Tibaijuka wrote in the report, referring to poverty, environmental degradation, income inequalities, historical socio-economic inequalities, marginalization and various forms of exclusion,” the AP writes (3/19).

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