The Bottom (Urban) Billion

While the Dow’s dip below 10,000 certainly does not bode well for investors, its significance is largely symbolic. Contrast this with the every-day impact felt by the millions of people at the forefront of an even more sobering milestone:

The number of urban slum-dwellers worldwide has broken the one billion mark, making it clear that the urbanization of poverty is arguably one of the biggest challenges facing development today, executive director of UN-Habitat, has said.

According to the UN Secretary-General, over a third of urban dwellers in the developing world live in slums. This problem is even more acute in sub-Saharan Africa, where breakneck urbanization has created slums that contain more than 60% of cities’ inhabitants.

The S-G cited these statistics in his message on “World Habitat Day” yesterday, which marked an occasion to “reflect on the state of our towns and cities and the basic right to adequate shelter for all.” It also signals how far we have to go if we are to meet the Millennium Development Goals’ challenge of improving at least 100 million slum dwellers’ lives by 2020.

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