New Orleans Annual report on the “State of the World’s Cities 2010/2011” from the United Nations – Habitat office in Nairobi is not a cheerful bunch of news. The headline grabber is that slum dwellers increased by another 51,000,000 over the last decade in the face of tons of press releases, conferences, and even sometimes money spent trying to reduce poverty.
The total number of slum dwellers is now within a shout of a billion people, and sitting, according to UN-Habitat at 828,000,000. That’s a pile of poor people! Remember this is only the count of slum dwellers in the worlds’ cities and doesn’t count poor people who have not made it from the countryside to the city, though many are still inexorably moving in that direction.
Not surprisingly the increases of slum dwellers are mostly in the global south. UN-Habitat even ranks unequal cities. The top three were in South Africa, which is distressing. One is Johannesburg. Next in line were four Brazilian cities, which is also a surprise. Three of them are well known: Brasilia, the national capitol, Belo Horizonte, and Fotaleza, which some believe has the best beaches in Brazil. Beijing, Shanghai, and several other Chinese cities were rated as the “most equal” but also labeled as “equally poor,” which is hardly reassuring.
It goes without saying that there’s a lot of work to be done.
As a footnote, I saw a blurb the other day that 95% of the world’s population makes less than $26,000 per year. Caught my eye, since that was once the starting scale for organizers when I was working at ACORN, and most scoffed that it was a poverty wage, proving once again that it all depends on where you are standing, when you are looking.