The fastest urban growth is occurring on the fringes of cities, creating mega-agglomerations of mostly illegal squatter settlements. Urban poverty is increasing as fast as cities are growing…
  • The world’s slums are growing, and growing, with the number people living in such dire conditions now at the 1 billion mark – making up 32% of the global urban population; (1)

  • since it first appeared in the 1820s, the word slum has been used to identify the poorest quality housing, and the most unsanitary conditions; a refuge for marginal activities including crime, ‘vice’ and drug abuse; a likely source for many epidemics that ravaged urban areas; a place apart from all that was decent and wholesome;

  • according to UN experts, a slum is an area that combines to various extents the following characteristics: inadequate access to safe water; inadequate access to sanitation and other infrastructure; poor structural quality of housing; overcrowding, and insecure residential status;

  • in developing regions, slum dwellers account for 43% of the population in contrast to about 6% in more developed regions. In sub-Saharan Africa the proportion of urban residents in slums is highest at 71.9%. Oceania had the lowest at 24.1%. South-central Asia accounted for 58%, east Asia for 36.4%, western Asia for 33.1%, Latin America and the Caribbean for 31.9%, north Africa for 28.2% and southeast Asia for 28%;

  • although the concentration of slum dwellers is highest in African cities, in numbers alone, Asia accounts for some 60% of the world’s urban slum residents;

  • poorer people are regularly treated as 2nd class citizens, or as ‘illegals’, as if somehow they have no right to live in cities. Most of those - born into cities or moving from the countryside in search of a better life face incredible hardship. For hundreds of millions of poor urban dwellers, cities represent long hours of work for little pay, living in cramped and overcrowded slums or squats, vulnerable to disasters, disease and violence;

  • perversely, most poor city dwellers survive in spite of the formal systems that are supposed to help them. When policy makers and officials misunderstand the positive contribution poorer people make to cities, the poorest suffer the most, through forced evictions, denial of land, services and rights, of protection from crime, and political manipulation. The effects can be widespread. Badly run cities, i.e. those that do not embrace the positive contributions all its citizens make, have implications for entire nations. They hinder investments, waste resources, destroy environments and engulf rural societies through unplanned expansion.

(1) The astonishing prevalence of slums is the chief theme of the historic and sombre report published in October 2003 by the United Nations’ Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat). “The Challenge of the Slums” is the first truly global audit of urban poverty. See: