7 October 2003

A billion live in slums: UN

About a sixth of the world's population , nearly 1 billion people, live in slums, and that number could double by 2030 if developed nations fail to change course and start giving the issue serious attention, a United Nations report says.

The UN Human Settlements Program's report is the first to assess slums and examine how widespread they are. Its main concern is the developing nations in Asia and Africa because the migration from rural areas to cities in Europe and the Americas has largely played out.

The report's main finding is stark - almost half the world's urban population lives in slums. Asia has the largest number of slum dwellers overall, with 554 million, while sub-Saharan Africa has the largest percentage of its urban population living in slums, about 71 per cent.

'In some developing country cities, slums are so pervasive that it is the rich who have to segregate themselves behind small, gated enclaves,' the report says.

The report describes slums as poor areas that lack basic services or access to clean water, where housing is poorly built and overcrowded. Developed nations are not immune - 54 million people who live in cities in richer countries do so in slum-like conditions.

The whole report is available. It's worth asking whether slum-dwellers are more or less likely to support terrorist networks and if so, whether the resources of the War on Terror would be better devoted to sustainability.

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