Nearly a quarter of a billion people were lifted out of shanty town conditions since the year 2000, but the actual number of people living in these conditions continues to rise. In the past decade, the total number of people now living in slums has grown by nearly 55 million, the UN report said. “The progress made on the slum target has not been enough to counter the growth of informal settlements in the developing world,” the UN agency for human settlements, (UN-HABITAT) 2010 report says.
China and India, the countries that have the most people living in them, have together moved 125 million people out of slums in the last decade, while a further 112 million escaped poor conditions in the rest of the world. But because more people are opting to live in towns now than in rural areas, many more new people are moving into shanty towns. That means the total number of people living in crowded, substandard housing – often without safe drinking water and sanitation – has risen by nearly 55 million people since 2000. The worldwide number of slum-dwellers now stands at 827 million and is expected to grow to 889 million by 2020. Two-thirds of the world's slum-dwellers live in Africa, the study revealed, the only continent which hasn’t made progress cutting the number of people forced to live in these conditions.
While the figures mean that countries have beaten the Millennium Development target to lift 100 million people out of shanty towns by 2020, the UN says slum numbers will still go up in the short term. "The current global financial crisis poses a risk that advances in slum upgrading and prevention may be reversed. In addition, some gains can be undone by responses that do not take population growth into account," it said.
In Central African Republic and Cote d'Ivoire, fighting has upped the number of people living in shanty towns by at least 10 per cent. And countries like Ethiopia, Benin and Malawi have more than 70 per cent of their populations living in slums. Southern Asia now has 190.7 million (35 per cent of the population) and eastern Asia 189.6 million (28 per cent) living in unacceptable housing conditions, says the report. In developed countries, that figure is just 6 per cent. Meanwhile people living in Santa Marta shanty town in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro have brought out a leaflet reminding people about their rights after problems with heavy-handed policing.
By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children