Slums may triple as economic woes hobble UN efforts

The global economic crisis is jeopardising efforts to help the world’s growing number of slum dwellers, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says.
The UN housing agency UN-Habitat, which is hosting a major meeting this week in the Kenyan capital, says the number of slum dwellers in the world could triple to 3 billion by 2050 if left unchecked.
Delegates from dozens of nations, NGOs and grassroots groups are gathered in Nairobi to discuss how to allocate resources to the problem over the next two years in the face of the worst financial downturn since the Great Depression, Reuters reports.
“The persistence of urban poverty is largely the result of weak urban economies and finance,” Ban said in a speech read to the meeting on his behalf.
“The current global financial crisis and credit crunch only exacerbate this situation. There is a risk that our efforts … to address the shelter crisis will be rolled back.”
Slums are most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, where 62 percent of the urban population have inadequate shelter, followed by south Asia with 43 percent and east Asia at 37 percent, Moon said.
UN-Habitat boss Anna Tibaijuka said the US sub-prime housing crisis was a “watershed” that put affordable housing on the agenda as an economic, rather than social, issue.
She said public-private partnerships were essential to providing housing solutions for the world’s poorest people, and could also help stimulate the economy.
“Economists are emphasising the economic importance of housing and urban infrastructure as part of the productive sector which will generate employment,” she told reporters.