Our planet is now urban. We live a new urban era when for the first time in history more than half the world’s population lives in towns and cities. Cities are growing and growing. This process, known as urbanisation, is irreversible.
In 1950, one-third of the world’s people lived in cities. Just 50 years later, this rose to one-half and will continue to grow to two-thirds, or 6 billion people, by 2050.
In many cities, especially in developing countries, slum dwellers number more than 50 per cent of the population and have little or no access to shelter, water, and sanitation, education or health services.
Put another way: Never before in history has the world witnessed such a rapid growth in urbanisation. At the global level, an estimated 1 billion of these city dwellers live in slums and other sub-standard housing.
Sub-Saharan Africatoday has a slum population of 199.5 million representing 61.7 percent of its urban population. This is followed by South Asiawith 190.7 million in slums making up 35 percent of urban residents, East Asia with 189.6 million (28.2 percent), Latin America and the Caribbeanwith 110.7 million (23.5 percent), Southeast Asiawith 88.9 million (31 percent), West Asiawith 35 million (24.6 percent), North Africawith 11.8 million (13.3 percent), and Oceaniawith six million who constitute 24.1 percent of the urban population.
In a process known as the urbanisation of poverty, 55 million new slum dwellers have been added to the global urban population since 2000.
As more and more governments recognise this, the United Nations needs to galvanise its strength as never before in the quest to go beyond the slum target set by the Millennium Development Goals.