Slum dwellers: Almost 2 billion people live there in the world


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One in four city dwellers lives in an “informal settlement”. This was also discussed at COP25, the Climate Conference in Madrid. But there is still a lack of serious strategies to tackle the problem of massive migration from the countryside to urban areas, which is at the root of the birth of shantytowns.

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The UN-Habit agency, charged with promoting socially and environmentally sustainable cities in order to provide adequate shelter for all, conducted the study in 2013 and the slum population has only grown since then.

After a slight decrease from 28% in 2000 to 23% in 2014, the proportion is increasing again. At the end of 2019, over 1.9 billion people would live in slums. This is an estimate made at the Osservatorio Diritti by Álvaro Puertas Robina, architect and Secretary General of the global network for housing rights, Habitat International Coalition (HIC). Data in contrast to official UN figures, which at the end of 2018 estimated a total of 1.33 million people.

In 2016, shantytowns housed about 30-50% of the population in the South of the world. Africa is home to over 60% of the population, followed by Asia (30%) and Latin America and the Caribbean (24%). In the Arab region, the percentage of substandard housing varies from country to country, reaching 67-94% of urban residents living in one or more deprivation.

From the countryside to the megalopolis: a problem forgotten by the UN

“These alarming figures were then removed from the original document, highlighting some improvements and progress made in recent years”, explains Álvaro Puertas. “But the reports often omit the population growth and massive migration from rural areas to large cities. This is a problem not addressed by the United Nations, which inexplicably advocates an urban future for all mankind”.

On the contrary, HIC’s vision for human rights aligns with the definition agreed at the Second Habitat Conference in Istanbul in 1996: “a regional and cross-sectoral approach to human settlements that emphasizes country-city links and treats villages and cities as two ends in a continuum of human settlements and a common ecosystem.

Puertas Robina was at Madrid’s climate summit to take part in a round table on the link between climate and housing standards. Based on the concept of “right to the city”, the event presented solutions for mitigation and adaptation in terms of housing, water supply and energy.