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Aid Agency Discussing Different Solutions to Poverty in Urban Areas


Urban poverty has taken root in almost all cities and urban dwellings in the world, posing a new threat to the set social structure and resources, which are being strained beyond what they can support. Demand for water, medical and other services is straining available resources in many cities most of which are already in a crisis on how to manage the urban poor. Policy formulation often doesn’t go hand in hand with implementation and is faced with challenging problems that cannot be solved with traditional means of solving the issue of urban poverty. Indeed, governments, civil societies and other stakeholders are having a rough time identifying the right way forward to tackle the problem especially given that it has been associated with emerging crimes and economic strain. Various solutions have been put forward including addressing issues related to cultural rigidity, demographics, policy implementation, job creation and slum upgrading. This paper will discuss the different solutions aimed at curbing urban poverty.

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Nightmare facing cities in form of Urban Poverty

Urban poverty is a nightmare most cities, governments and local authorities are facing the world over. Urban population in cities expected to absorb 95% of the world’s population by the year 2030 (Practical Action, 2008). Through research, genuine collaboration with the poor urbanites and by learning from other cities’ experiences, urban poverty, which is at an increase, can be effectively tackled to manageable levels from the critical phase it is spiraling to.

Some effects of urban poverty


Conventional means of combating urban poverty are not delivering expected results, at times leading to the breakdown of the set social way of life and leading to adverse effects like rise in crime levels (Giusti and Perez, 2008), Crime, inaccessibility of employment, living standards not conducive for human habitation are characteristics of urban poverty.

Toll on Economy (Health, infrastructure)

Urban poverty forms a cyclic circle of ills that take toll on the economy, choking development. The movement into urban areas brings a strain on the already overstretched resources, like water, sanitation and infrastructure. Without adequate water, definitely sanitation becomes a nightmare, and diseases that mainly affect the elderly and children thrive, taking a toll on the economy as more funds are channeled to cater for medical needs in the poverty prone areas.

Due to lack of proper planning in buildings and lack of provision of essentials needs like electricity, countries like South Africa, which have a national output of electricity that can easily supply places where there is urban poverty find it difficult to connect power to the people and this leads to use of cheap ‘dirty’ sources of fuel like coal. This leads to a rise in disease, again making health care quite an uphill task for the government to meet.

Identified solutions to urban poverty

Tackling culture rigidity

Urban poverty eradication is more than the dynamics of relocating people from shanty houses to high rise buildings. The urban setting of slums where the majority poor are to be found is a complex problem that touches on a culture that has evolved from the traditional family setting to one of cohabiting closely at now undefined levels. When this set structure is broken, the aftermath is an orgy of social breakdown and unforeseen drawbacks like a rise in crime rate (Giusti and Perez, 2008)

Addressing demographic issues

Gender based analysis and solutions have to be found if effective solutions are to be implemented. The breakdown of ‘normal’ or traditional social setups indicates that there are many single-headed households, with women headed households outnumbering single households headed by men. When seeking such solutions, it needs be put in mind that these new social structures call for thoughtful approach in upgrading attempts as men and women tend to react differently to situations and problems (Masika, de Haan & Baden, 1997, p. 8).

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Moreover, every city poses its own unique problems but the trends have similar characteristics. Basically, the ratio of men to female in cities in the Asia and Africa is different from that in Europe and United States.

Active implementation of policies

Without the involvement of the urban poor, the leaders’ efforts to eradicate poverty in urban areas will fail (Power and Houghton, 2007, p.180). The real problem is that the issue of urban poverty eradication has been met with just talk, not action. Indeed, government representatives have chided civil right groups and other stakeholders for coming up with sweet sounding policies which are almost impossible to implement (Facing the Issues of Asia’s Urban Slums, n.d).

Creating linkages that promote job creation

New solutions such as creating links between neighborhoods and the City centers which translates to new jobs and opportunities for the urban poor and opening new avenues of exploration, are ways of combating urban poverty (Power and Houghton, 2007, p.181). However, for proper provision of services to the City by the slum dwellers security, housing, higher incomes and self dependence have to be realized by the urban poor.

Solutions to urban poverty are as diverse as there are slums in the world. Each slum is unique in its own way, and focus must be addressed on the specific slum in question, as well as its needs and even what role it fulfils in the larger economy of the city. Indeed, some pundits see some of Asia’s slums as an answer to the needs of the surrounded cities (Facing the Issues of Asia’s Urban Slums, n.d).

Government intervention in upgrading slums

Solutions lie in the provision of alternative means of livelihood in settings that are conducive for a stress free lifestyle, i.e. where the basic essentials are readily available and at affordable costs. Urban slum dwellers often pay high rates for services such as water because of its scarcity. This can be achieved through upgrading of houses. One case study of such a venture can be found in Kenya, an African country whose largest slum, Kibera, was recently upgraded (Syaggah, Mitullah and Gitau, 2001). Through consultation with elders on the best way to carry out the exercise, those that have already relocated to the new houses have termed it as a success with its challenges. The policy paper that was formulated came to the view that the greatest obstacle to slum upgrading was issue of ownership and the government of Kenya in collaboration with UN-HABITAT converted government/common land for the majority poor that was to be the site of their new upgraded homes (Syaggah, Mitullah and Gitau, 2001).

Gender based solutions should address the need for women to get better paying jobs, not just necessarily meeting their housing needs. In addition, small credit loans should also be considered to help them have a go at establishing self help businesses (Masika, de Haan and Baden, 1997, p. 12). Also, self help groups that formed cooperative societies or merry go rounds can be introduced into ways of environmental conservation and other communal activities and this forms the basis of finding solutions by introducing new ways to earn income and coming up with new ways to deal with the urban poverty problems (Perlman, Hopkins and Jonsson, 1998, p. 10).

Collaboration and cooperation of likeminded stakeholders

Through collaboration with other bodies on the ground that are dealing with poverty eradication programs, governments, non-governmental organizations and the peoples’ representatives, collection of data from the urban poor, formulating and implementing sound policies can bring down the problem of urban poverty to manageable levels.

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It is clear that urban poverty has been a menace in almost all cities and urban areas in the world although the less developed countries seem to be more affected. Basically, its effect to the society has been a major issue of concern that has necessitated concerted efforts to find various solutions to the problem. Indeed, when the various identified solutions are implemented, the benefits will be realized not only by the directly affected people, but by the whole society in the world.


Facing the Issues of Asia’s Urban Slums. N.d. East-West Center website.

Giusti, de Perez, R. & Perez, R., 2008. Analyzing Urban Poverty: GIS for the Developing World. Web.

Masika, R., de Haan, A. & Baden, S., 1997. Urbanization and urban poverty: a gender analysis. BRIDGE, Report No 54. Web.

Perlman, J., Hopkins, E. & Jonsson, A., 1998. Urban solutions at the poverty/environment intersection. Web.

Power, A. and Houghton, J., 2007. Jigsaw Cities: Big Places, Small Spaces. Bristol: Policy Press

Practical Action. 2008. Urban Poverty. Web.

Syaggah. P. M., Mitullah, W. V. and Gitau, S. K., 2001. Slum upgrading: Lessons learnt in Nairobi. Web.

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