Urban Poverty and Vulnerability In Kenya: Background analysis for the preparation of an Oxfam GB Urban Programme focused on Nairobi. Sept. 2009. OXFAM. (pdf, full-text)
This urban poverty analysis by Oxfam GB was informed by the fact that urban poverty emerged as a key challenge in the OGB Kenya 2007 National Change Strategy review. A range of international actors as well as the government of Kenya now acknowledge the urbanisation of poverty in the country and the scale of the challenges presented by rapid urbanisation. From an Oxfam perspective, this means recognising the need to invest further resources in urban work in a country where, until recently, the programme has focused principally on emergency response and the arid lands in the North in recent years.
Urban poverty and inequality in Kenya
This report brings together the growing evidence about the scale and nature of poverty in Kenya’s urban areas. Between a third and half of the country’s urban population live in poverty, and given the pace of urbanisation, urban poverty will represent almost half of the total poverty in Kenya by 2020. Moreover, while urban poverty has been decreasing according to some measures, statistics indicate that the proportion of the urban population that are poorest of all (the ‘food poor’ and ‘hardcore poor’) has been on the rise.
In Nairobi, the capital city, 60% of the population live in slums and levels of inequality are dangerously high, with negative implications for both human security and economic development. Feelings of insecurity in many of the city’s informal settlements have heightened considerably since the violence following the contested election results of December 2007. Poverty in the city is worst amongst those with low levels of education, another cause for concern given that considerably fewer children attend the later stages of school in Nairobi than in Kenya’s rural areas, and many slum areas have few or no public schools. Meanwhile gender inequalities remain severe, with female slum-dwellers being 5 times more likely to be unemployed than males.
The United Nations predicts that 2 billion people worldwide will live in slums by 2030 — largely in Asia and Africa. Exacerbated by population growth and declining resources, Asia is currently home to over half of the global slum population (581 million people).
Chris Pablo is an operations officer in the World Bank infrastructure team in Manila — where the population has soared — and writes in the “East Asia & Pacific on the Rise” blog about helping to deal with slums. In the Philippines, about 20 million people live in slums.
Empowering the poor: Helping urban slums to help themselves
In a country where half of the population lives in urban areas, one would expect colonies of slums (arguably called “informal settlements”) strewn across almost every town with high population densities. The picture is not a far cry from reality, at least in the context of the Philippines, perhaps the fastest urbanizing country in Asia. But even if the country has seen incredible growth over the years, there is hope things can turn around — and the feeling is not baseless.
Water scarcity affects emotions, study says.
Water shortages are linked to emotional distress among people living in poor urban areas, according to a study an ASU researcher collaborated on.
Amber Wutich, an assistant professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, and Kathleen Ragsdale, an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work at Mississippi State University, conducted the study that examined the extent to which water-related emotional distress is linked with water insecurity. Unequal distribution of water between rich and poor people was a major factor.
In their paper titled “Water insecurity and emotional distress: Coping with supply, access and seasonal variability of water in a Bolivian squatter settlement,” published in a 2008 edition of Social Science and Medicine, the pair observed different aspects of water insecurity.
Wutich said the study examined three dimensions of water insecurity: inadequate water supply, insufficient access to water and dependence on seasonal water sources.
“Recent research suggests that insecure access to key resources is associated with negative mental health outcomes,” Wutich said. “Many of these studies focus on drought and famine in agricultural, pastoral and foraging communities.”
Wutich said her study is the first to systematically examine community patterns of water insecurity in an urban setting.
The study was conducted in 2004 and 2005 through face-to-face survey interviews with a random sample of 72 household heads in Villa Israel, a squatter settlement of Cochabamba, Bolivia. Participants were asked how they felt emotionally about the water situation and were given four options: fear, worry, anger and bother.
Interviews were conducted four times over an eight-month period to capture variation in experiences at the height of Bolivia’s wet and dry seasons, Wutich said.
At the conclusion of the research, she said, only one of the four tested variables was proven to cause emotional distress.
“We found that only inequities in the distribution of water was significantly related to emotional distress,” Wutich said.
Wutich explained that in a market system of water distribution, water is not equally dispersed amongst the community, causing many poor residents to face water shortages.
According to the World Health Organization’s Web site, 1.1 billion people throughout the world lack adequate water provisions, and 2.2 million people die as a result of water-related illnesses each year.
In their paper, Wutich and Ragsdale quote some of the people they met in Bolivia in relationship to their water shortage.
“What I dislike about living here is that there is no water, the streets are dirty and there is no sewer, all of this is very uncomfortable,’” said one Bolivian woman. “‘With more water, I could clean my house, wash the bathroom.’”
The study concluded her emotional distress was common among the urban poor.
“These results suggest that water-related emotional distress develops as a byproduct of the social and economic negotiations people employ to gain access to water distribution systems in the absence of clear procedures or established water rights, rather than as a result of water scarcity per se,” Wutich said.
Project examines urban dwellers’ vulnerability to heat in face of climate changes
TEMPE, Ariz. – Sophisticated climate and environmental data will be combined with social science knowledge by a team of Arizona State University researchers investigating human vulnerability to deadly heat exposure.
With the mounting effects of climate change and half the world’s population now living in urban areas – one-third of the people in slums – the potential for the increasing frequency and severity of heat waves is cause for grave concern, says Sharon Harlan, an associate professor of sociology in ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
“People in cities are in double jeopardy due to urban heat islands and global climate change – factors that are increasing and intensifying as they interact,” she says.
Exposure to extreme heat events could lead to even larger disasters than some seen in the recent past, such as the heat wave that took as many as 50,000 lives in Europe in 2003.
Harlan will lead researchers in seeking answers to guide policymakers and planners in bolstering protective measures to prevent heat-related illness and deaths. The collaborative project, partnering ASU and the University of California, Riverside, is supported by a recently awarded $1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation.
The teams will examine how global environmental change combines with local conditions to affect human vulnerability to climate change. Studies show the urban poor are most vulnerable to extreme heat, but little is known about the interplay between changing urban climates and the human and natural systems within cities.
Health of the Urban Poor in India: Key Results from the NFHS, 2005-06. (pdf, full-text)
Description: India’s urban population has been increasing rapidly in recent decades along with rapid urbanization. It is estimated that 80.8 million persons in urban areas live below the poverty line. The urban poor rarely benefit from the facilities in urban areas and are as deprived as those in the rural areas. The health of the urban poor is considerably worse off than the non poor in urban area and is comparable to the rural figures.
This wall chart presents the health of the urban poor in India compared with other population groups based on an analysis of the Third National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3) conducted in 2005-06. A wealth index has been developed based on 33 assets and household characteristics. The bottom quartile in urban areas is taken as the representative of the urban poor.
Description: The urban poor population in Uttar Pradesh has been increasing rapidly in recent decades along with rapid urbanization. As per the 2001 Census, 3.45 crore persons were residing in towns and cities of Uttar Pradesh. It is estimated that 1.17 crore persons comprising 30.6 per cent of the urban population of the state lives below the poverty line. The urban poor rarely benefit from the facilities in urban areas and are as deprived as those in the rural areas. The health of the slum communities is considerably worse off than the non poor in urban area and is comparable to the rural figures.
This wall chart presents health of the urban poor in Uttar Pradesh compared with other population groups based on an analysis of the Third National Family Health Survey conducted in 2005-06. A wealth index which measures the economic status of households has been developed based on 33 assets and household characteristics. The bottom quartile in urban areas is taken as the representative of the urban poor.
Description: The urban poor population in Rajasthan has been increasing rapidly in recent decades along with rapid urbanization.As per the 2001 Census, 1.32 crore persons comprising 23.4 percent of the total population were living in towns and cities of Rajasthan. It is estimated that 47.51 lakh persons comprising 32.9 per cent of the urban population of the state live below the poverty line. Urban Poverty in Rajasthan is almost double that in rural areas of the state. The urban poor rarely benefit from the facilities in urban areas and are as deprived as those in the rural areas. The health of the slum communities is considerably worse off than the non poor in urban area and is comparable to the rural figures.
This wall chart presents health of the urban poor in Rajasthan compared with other population groups based on an analysis of the Third National Family Health Survey conducted in 2005-06. A wealth index which measures the economic status of households has been developed based on 33 assets and household characteristics. The bottom quartile in urban areas is taken as the representative of the urban poor.