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World’s poorest urban children are more likely to die young & less likely to complete primary school
by Unicef, IIED, OHCHR, Slum Dwellers International
Nov. 2018
Millions of the world’s poorest urban children are more likely to die young and less likely to complete primary school than their rural peers—UNICEF
The poorest urban children in 1 in 4 countries* are more likely to die before their fifth birthday than the poorest children in rural areas. And the poorest urban children in 1 in 6 countries are less likely to complete primary school than their counterparts in rural areas, according to a new UNICEF report released this week.
The report, Advantage or Paradox: The Challenge for children and young people growing up urban reveals that not all children in cities benefit from the so-called ‘urban advantage’ - the notion that higher incomes, better infrastructure, and proximity to services grant urban dwellers better lives.
Instead, urban inequality, urban exclusion, and urban challenges to well-being, such as environmental and health hazards, can together result in an ‘urban paradox’ where many urban residents – including children - miss out and suffer more severe deprivations than their rural peers.
“For rural parents, at face-value, the reasons to migrate to cities seem obvious: better access to jobs, health care and education opportunities for their children,” said Laurence Chandy, UNICEF Director of Data, Research and Policy. “But not all urban children are benefitting equally; we find evidence of millions of children in urban areas who fare worse than their rural peers.”
The report identifies 4.3 million poor urban children who are more likely to die before age 5 than their peers in rural areas. It similarly finds 13.4 million poor children living in cities who are less likely to complete primary school than their rural counterparts.
The report analyses 10 indicators of child well-being in 77 mostly low and middle-income countries**. It confirms that in most countries, urban children fare better than rural children, on average. But these averages hide yawning inequalities in urban areas. Moreover, when children from urban and rural households with similar levels of wealth are compared, the urban advantage is no longer apparent.
“Children should be a focus of urban planning, yet in many cities they are forgotten, with millions of children cut-off from social services in urban slums and informal settlements, and exposed to environmental or health hazards due to overcrowding,” Chandy added. “Implementing solutions to urban development and planning is crucial to arrest these social and economic disparities.”
Some 1 billion people are estimated to live in slums – hundreds of millions of them children. Africa and Asia are urbanising rapidly. By 2030, seven of the 10 largest cities will be in Asia, and Africa’s urban population is the fastest growing with an annual rate of growth of 3.7 per cent.
The report also highlights intra-urban inequities reflected in childhood outcomes which can be attributed to limited access to essential services. For instance, in half of the countries analysed, the poorest urban children are twice as unlikely to have access to basic sanitation services than urban children from the richest households.
In the absence of innovative ways of supporting the urban poor, inequity in childhood outcomes may widen and an increasing number of urban children will be shut out of overall progress. The report calls for a number of actions from urban authorities and the global community:
Making urban areas an integral part of programming for children, including the most vulnerable.
Developing the capacities of inclusive urban planning at all levels of government—national, regional and local.
Accelerating the development of urban systems of infrastructure and services to keep pace with current trends of rapid urbanization.
Finding new solutions for mobilizing financial resources to improve urban systems and increase equity within urban areas.
Investing in better data and better use of existing data to understand the full extent and dimensions of urban inequity.
Oct 2018
Informal settlements and the right to housing. (OHCHR)
In her 2018 report to the UN General Assembly, Leilani Farha the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing examines the issue of the right to housing for residents of informal settlements. States have committed under Goal 11 of the Agenda for Sustainable Development to upgrade all informal settlements and ensure adequate housing for all by 2030.
Currently nearly one quarter of the world’s urban population lives in informal settlements or encampments, most in developing countries but increasingly also in the most affluent countries. Living conditions are shocking and intolerable. Residents often live without water and sanitation, and are in constant fear of eviction.
Past approaches have been premised on the idea of eliminating “slums”, often resorting to evictions and relocating residents to remote locations on the outskirts of cities. The report proposes a very different, rights-based approach that builds upon informal settlement communities and their inherent capacities. It understands informality as resulting from systemic exclusion and advances a set of recommendations for supporting and enabling residents to become full participants in upgrading.
The recommendations have their basis in international human rights obligations, particularly those flowing from the right to housing, and cover a number of areas, including the right to participation, access to justice, international cooperation and development assistance, environmental concerns, and business and human rights.
''The living conditions in informal settlements are one of the most pervasive violations of human rights globally. It is thus a human rights imperative that informal settlements be upgraded to meet basic standards of human dignity. Recognizing this, and mobilizing all actors within a shared human rights paradigm, can make the 2030 upgrading agenda achievable''.
''Ignoring 900 million people living in overcrowded informal settlements is a global human rights scandal that governments must resolve.. The living conditions in informal settlements are one of the most pervasive violations of human rights globally and yet this is being ignored by most and exacerbated by many,” said Leilani Farha in her report to the UN General Assembly.
“The conditions that many suffer are inhumane – overcrowding, lack of basic services like toilets and running water, and complete insecurity. Many are in constant fear of having their homes bulldozed or destroyed,” the Special Rapporteur said.
Farha described the housing challenge in Africa and Asia as immense. “In many cities in Africa, more than half of the population lives in informal settlements. In Asia, there are 520 million residents of informal settlements, often in areas that are vulnerable to floods, landslides or contamination.”
Even in the richest countries, informal settlements or encampments are common. “In North American countries, I’ve visited encampments under highway overpasses deliberately deprived of portable toilets that are subject to having their tents and belongings swept away at any time,” she said.
The Special Rapporteur said informal settlements are the result of “a flagrant disregard” of the right to housing in a wide range of policy areas, but at the same time must be recognized as incredible accomplishments and a claiming of rights to dignity and place. Residents create homes, culture and community life in the most adverse circumstances.
The report says States must stop stigmatizing and criminalising residents of informal settlements and instead build on the capacities of communities to claim and realize their rights. “The commitment of States in the Agenda for Sustainable Development to provide secure, adequate and affordable housing to all and to upgrade informal settlements by 2030 must be treated as a human rights imperative of the highest order,” Farha said.
The Special Rapporteur’s report includes 31 directives for upgrading informal settlements in compliance with the right to housing and other international human rights norms. The directives affirm the right of residents to participate in all aspects of upgrading. They underscore the obligation of States to facilitate community participation, avoid unnecessary relocation and cease the practice of forced evictions.
* Access the report:

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1.3 billion people worldwide experience poverty in their daily life
by Sabina Alkire, Selim Jahan, Achim Steiner
UNDP, Poverty & Human Development Initiative
Sep. 2018
Half of all people living in poverty are younger than 18 years old, according to estimates from the 2018 global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) released this week by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI).
The new figures show that in 104 primarily low and middle-income countries, 662 million children are considered multidimensionally poor. In 35 countries half of all children are poor.
The MPI looks beyond income to understand how people experience poverty in multiple and simultaneous ways. It identifies how people are being left behind across three key dimensions: health, education and living standards, lacking such things as clean water, sanitation, adequate nutrition or primary education. Those who are deprived in at least of a third of the MPI’s components are defined as multidimensionally poor. The 2018 figures, which are now closely aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, cover almost three-quarters of the world’s population.
The latest figures paint a stark picture of just how many are still left behind by development, but they also demonstrate that progress can happen quickly with the right approach.
Some 1.3 billion people live in multidimensional poverty, which is almost a quarter of the population of the 104 countries for which the 2018 MPI is calculated. Of these 1.3 billion, almost half - 46 percent - are thought to be living in severe poverty and are deprived in at least half of the dimensions covered in the MPI.
But while there is much to be done, there are promising signs that such poverty can be - and is being - tackled. In India, the first country for which progress over time has been estimated, 271 million people moved out of extreme poverty between 2005/06 and 2015/16. The extreme poverty rate there has fallen from 55 percent to 28 percent over the ten-year period.
“Although the level of poverty – particularly in children – is staggering so is the progress that can be made in tackling it. In India alone some 271 million have escaped multidimensional poverty in just ten years,” said Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator.
“The Multidimensional Poverty Index gives insights that are vital for understanding the many ways in which people experience poverty, and it provides a new perspective on the scale and nature of global poverty while reminding us that eliminating it in all its forms is far from impossible.”
Although similar comparisons over time have not yet been calculated for other countries, the latest information from UNDP’s Human Development Index – released last week – shows significant development progress in all regions, including many Sub-Saharan African countries. Between 2006 and 2017, the life expectancy increased over 7 years in Sub-Saharan Africa and by almost 4 years in South Asia, and enrollment rates in primary education are up significantly. This bodes well for improvements in multidimensional poverty.
Multidimensional poverty is found in all developing regions of the world, but it is particularly acute – and significant – in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
In Sub-Saharan Africa for instance, some 560 million people (58 percent of the population) are living in multidimensional poverty, 342 million (61 percent of those living in multidimensional poverty) of them severely so. While in South Asia 546 million people (31 percent of the population) are multidimensionally poor, 200 million of them (37 percent) severely so.
Figures for the other regions are less severe and range from 19 percent of people in the Arab States living in multidimensional poverty, to two percent of those living in countries covered by the dataset in Europe and Central Asia. Within countries there is also considerable disparities. The 2018 MPI is available for 1,101 subnational regions showing within-country variations in multidimensional poverty levels for 87 countries.
The latest data also reveals the vast majority – 1.1 billion – of the multidimensional poor live in rural areas around the world, where poverty rates, at 36 percent, are four times higher than among those living in urban areas.
“The Multidimensional Poverty Index is a powerful tool for examining global poverty and communicating useful facts. Not only does it allow us to understand how different countries are faring in their fight against poverty, but it helps us to better understand who the poor are, where they are and the many different ways in which they experience poverty.”, said Sabina Alkire, OPHI Director.
Traditional poverty measures – often calculated by numbers of people who earn less than $1.90 a day – shed light on how little people earn but not on whether or how they experience poverty in their day-to-day lives. The MPI provides a complementary picture of poverty and how it impacts people across the world.
“The Sustainable Development Goals call to eradicate poverty in all its forms everywhere. The Multidimensional Poverty Index helps answer that call, providing immensely valuable information for all those seeking to understand what poverty looks like for a particular place or group of people, and for those working on the policies to help people escape poverty now and into the future.”, said Selim Jahan, Director of the Human Development Report Office at UNDP.
While the MPI’s core data look at those who are poor, and the subset who are severely poor, the numbers also look at those very close to becoming poor. These people, while not quite multidimensionally poor, are living precariously and struggling to remain above the poverty line.
The data show that in addition to the 1.3 billion classed as poor, an additional 879 million are at risk of falling into multidimensional poverty, which could happen quickly if they suffer setbacks from conflict, sickness, drought, unemployment and more.
* UN WebTV: Press Briefing on launch of 2018 Multidimensional Poverty Index. Speakers: Mr. Achim Steiner, Administrator (UNDP); Mr. Selim Jahan, Director, Human Development Report Office (UNDP); and Ms. Sabina Alkire, Director, Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative:
* 2018 MPI:

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