NAIROBI, 19 January 2010 (IRIN) – Fridah Awour Agolla has sold vegetables in Nairobi’s Mathare slum for 20 years. In better times, her stock sold out every day. But lately market forces have begun to bite even harder for the millions in Kenya who live in such squalid, neglected settlements.
“My customers are buying less and less; now I find that goods like vegetables do not sell out, they go into the next day. People’s ability to buy these goods has really dropped,” Agolla, a mother of five, told IRIN.
Agolla managed to put her children through primary school but never earned enough to pay for secondary education.
“If I could afford to join a savings club [where members’ regular contributions are distributed on a rotational basis], I’d buy a variety of food to improve my stock and I would probably be selling more, and perhaps some of my children could go back to school,” she said.
To fully understand Kenya’s slums you have to wander down twisted, slippery, narrow aisles, jump over open sewers, take in the smells of one-year old garbage, taste stewed chicken beaks or roasted fish gills, and share in the fear of being bulldozed in the middle of the night.
Pamela Anyango Odhiambo, 25, and a mother of five, says making ends meet gets harder and harder in Mathare.
“I think food prices have more than doubled within a short time; for example, with 300 shillings [US$4] I could feed my family for days. Now it is not even enough for one day,” said Odhiambo, nursing two-month-old twins.
Slum-dwellers are among the Kenyans worst hit by high food prices, yet they receive far less humanitarian attention than other demographic groups. The poorest urbanites spend up to two-thirds of their income on staple foods alone.
“There is a humanitarian crisis in deprived informal settlements around the world, and one of the regions where this dynamic is playing out is in Kenya,” said Choice Okoro, advocacy and outreach officer for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs-Kenya.
“Urban poverty is set to be Kenya’s defining crisis over the next decade if it is not urgently addressed,” she added.
Okoro said lack of recognition of slums and settlements as residential areas for city planning and budgeting purposes has meant that residents have been denied essential services provided to other residents.
“These include water, sanitation, electricity, garbage collection, health, education, access roads and transport,” she said. “In turn, the services that property owners provide to tenants are often insufficient.
“The number of urban population living in slums is expected to double in the next 15 years, as migration is exacerbated by environmental adversity,” she said.
In a September 2009 report, Oxfam-GB noted that the proportion of urban Kenyans unable to meet their nutritional and other basic requirements (the “absolute poor”) had declined over the past decade. “But this conceals the fact that the percentage share of the very poorest urban groups – defined as the ‘food poor’ [those unable to meet all nutritional needs due to expenditure on other basic non-food essentials] and ‘hardcore poor’ [unable to meet their basic food needs even by forgoing other essentials] has actually been increasing.” The report uses government thresholds, which define “nutritional needs” as 2,250 kilocalories per adult per day.
According to the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), “Nairobi has some of the most dense, unsanitary and insecure slums in the world. Almost half of the population lives in over 100 slums and squatter settlements within the city, with little or inadequate access to safe water and sanitation.”
In an effort to address these problems, UN-HABITAT, the government and Nairobi City Council are working together on a Kenya Slum Upgrading Project (KENSUP), which focuses on improving infrastructure, initially in Kibera, one of Nairobi’s largest slums.
“Working together with the people of Kibera, we have identified the areas where the needs are greater, this is why we started working on water and sanitation,” said Joshua Kaiganaine, KENSUP’s programme manager, noting that $500,000 had so far been spent on water sanitation blocks, rubbish collection points and a 4km access road.
“We tackle waterborne diseases; later, we will move on to different areas like shelter and education but, for that we need to understand what people really can afford considering the majority of them have only casual jobs.”
In the first phase of a KENSUP slum decanting initiative, in September 2009 some 1,300 residents of Kibera were moved to new apartment blocks with monthly rents of $20.
During the past several years, Zimbabwe has faced an ongoing complex emergency due to a collapsing economy, limited access to basic services, political instability and violence, disease, and poorly maintained infrastructure. The effects of hyperinflation and unemployment have exacerbated poverty, while large-scale displacement in urban and peri-urban areas as a result of political violence has further jeopardized the livelihoods of vulnerable populations.
Since 2006, USAID/OFDA has supported the Joint Initiative (JI), an innovative, multi-sectoral program implemented by six relief agencies to fight disaster-induced urban poverty and restore human dignity in cities and high-density suburbs throughout Zimbabwe. The program seeks to improve the livelihoods and food security of particularly vulnerable populations, including households headed by elderly people, child-headed households, people with disabilities, children, and people suffering from chronic illnesses. JI activities are designed to be self-sustaining and generate momentum; a small initial investment enables beneficiaries to build a business or grow vegetables, thus improving their families! lives and their own.
BUSINESS TRAINING AND SUPPORT TO GENERATE INCOME
In Njube, a high-density suburb of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe!s second-largest city, Victor Magwada expanded a home tailoring business with JI support. “I was working for Barclays Bank,” said Mr. Magwada, “[but] I had arthritis, became lame, and took a disability retirement package. However, with inflation, the money quickly vanished.” Mr. Magwada had been using his family!s manual sewing machine to produce small amounts of clothing for sale, but noted that “business was not flourishing.” Mr. Magwada!s wife, Christine, had been attending a JI home-based care training group. In April 2009, Mr. Magwada contacted JI to inquire about business training. JI responded swiftly, and the same day, Mr. Magwada enrolled in a one-week JI business management training course. Mr. Magwada developed a business proposal to produce school uniforms, hats, trousers, and work overalls for sale. JI approved the proposal and provided an electric sewing machine and cloth to support the expansion of Mr. Magwada!s business.
By August, Mr. Magwada had increased the sewing business!s weekly revenue from approximately $25 to approximately $120, providing much-needed income for his wife, 18-year old son Cliff, and 11-year-old daughter Tsitsi. “Now,” he said, “there is money for food, for rent, and for materials. We can even drink coffee, tea, and juice.” The electric sewing machine allows Mr. Magwada to work faster%he can produce 50 hats or 20 school uniforms per day%and with business proceeds he has bought additional sewing machines and a generator for times when the municipal grid does not provide electricity. Mr. Magwada also hopes to hire another worker to sew while he travels to deliver goods to customers. Before the JI intervention, demand for Mr. Magwada!s products had been high, but “I would often upset customers,” he said, “because I could not raise the cash to buy material. Now I pre-order 30 or 40 meters of material from my supplier in town, rather than purchasing 2 meters per time, because the supplier knows I will pay.” Through a small initial investment to help Mr. Magwada invigorate his business, JI helped the family generate income in the face of disaster-induced poverty.
Source – ReliefWeb, Sept. 23, 2009
Sabry, S. (2009). Poverty Lines in Greater Cairo: underestimating and misrepresenting poverty. Human Settlements Working Paper Series: Poverty Reduction in Urban Areas-21. London, IIED. (pdf, 473KB)
This paper engages with the global debate about the meaningfulness, validity and reliability of the poverty-line approach by examining the Egyptian poverty lines in relation to the reality of the lives of the urban poor in Greater Cairo. It reviews Egypt’s various poverty lines, and the data which inform them, and then questions their value in relation to the real costs of some basic living needs in eight of Greater Cairo’s informal areas in 2008. The paper concludes that the incidence of poverty is severely underestimated in Greater Cairo. This is because poverty lines are set too low in relation to the costs of even the most basic of needs, and because the household survey data which inform poverty-line studies under-sample people living in informal settlements, as they are based on census data which under-count the populations of informal areas.
Current official urban poverty rates are unlikely to reflect the real state of impoverishment in cities nationwide, according to a new report by non-governmental organizations ActionAid and Oxfam.
The government’s poverty line for the 2006-2010 period is an average monthly income of less than VND200,000 (US$11.10) per person in rural areas and below VND260,000 ($14.40) per person in urban areas.
In the context of inflation making the basic cost of living much higher in urban areas, this poverty line is no longer appropriate, as it is too low in comparison with the increase in prices, the report says.
The impacts of food price hikes in 2008 are shown to have particularly affected vulnerable social groups such as migrant workers, small traders and motorbike taxi drivers.
In many cases, a decrease of income or fear of losing work meant they were forced to move to cheaper accommodation, or to areas with poor infrastructure and uncertain land use rights.
Many people reported they had to cut down on spending, and reduce savings and remittances.
The existing data do not reflect the true state of urban poverty as no account is taken of unregistered migrants, said the report. Many migrant households are poor or near poor, yet they are not recorded in official statistics. The migrants are normally excluded from official poverty surveys as they are typically not registered citizens of the cities.
Meanwhile, local management of urban poverty is facing big challenges in terms of human resources, budget and working facilities.
The urban poor, especially migrants, often gather in recently urbanized and peripheral districts, where the basic infrastructure of power, roads, water supply and drainage is of poor quality. Existing policies are inadequate to improve the lives of these inhabitants, the report says.
The report stresses that to effectively address urban poverty, there is a need to thoroughly understand the scale and role of migration, design support programs for specially disadvantaged groups to increase their access to social services and secure safety nets, and give careful consideration to the livelihoods of poor people when developing urban management policies.
ActionAid, an international antipoverty agency, and Oxfam, a group of non-governmental organizations working worldwide to fight poverty and injustice, carried out their joint study in five wards of Hai Phong City and Ho Chi Minh City between May and July 2008.
In-depth interviews were carried out with 537 people and questionnaires were collected from 120 migrant workers.
India’s booming economy has helped marginalise the growing number of impoverished city dwellers while lifting millions out of poverty, a government report said on Tuesday.
The proportion of India’s urban poor halved in the 30 years to 2005 but absolute numbers rose from 60 to 81 million during the period, said the report produced with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
“Would bringing out an urban poverty report put some shadow on the shining and glittering performance of India?” asked Professor Amitabh Kundu, the chief coordinator of the “India Urban Poverty Report 2009,” which was released in New Delhi on February, 3, 2009.
“When you’re watching the process of development, where you stand is very important — whether you see the speed of the engine or you get overwhelmed by the smoke.”
The urban poor accounted for 25.7 percent of the country’s total urban population in 2004-5 compared with 49.01 percent in 1973-74, said the report which defines urban poor as anyone living on less than 20 rupees (29 pence) a day.
However, the rate of overall decline in poverty slowed from 0.82 percentage points per year from 1973-74 to 1983-84, to 0.61 percentage points from 1993-94 to 2004-05, the report said, revealing the flip-side of the country’s economic success.
India’s economy grew at around 9 percent in each of the past three years.
“Certain aspects of economic development and the changes associated strongly with the process of urbanisation in India have created a backwash effect for the poorer sections of the urban community,” the report said.
The “backwash” is also blamed on the decline or relocation of traditional industries such as textiles and steel.
“The urban workers are increasingly being pushed into the informal sector,” the report said.
The report said such exclusion is pushing a large number of urban workers such as street vendors and rickshaw pullers further into poverty.
Mass slum clearances have driven workers, such as those in domestic service, away from their place of work and pushed many into crime, the report said.
“When the urban poor are pushed away from the place of his/her livelihood, the result is complete loss of livelihood. As a result, many of the poor are pushed into crime.”