The world is becoming increasingly urban; more people now live in cities than in rural areas. By 2050, 70% of the world population will be urbanised. Because of this, addressing poverty increasingly equates to addressing urban poverty.
Expanding populations put an enormous strain on urban infrastructure. Cities with limited technical and financial capacities are grappling with grinding poverty and environmental degradation.
Currently, nearly one billion people suffer from hunger; 884 million lack a safe supply of freshwater; and 2.5 billion people lack access to basic sanitation. According to UNICEF, one in three city dwellers globally live in slums, while in Africa the proportion increases to six in ten.
More than a billion children live in cities and towns. Despite growing up in close proximity to modern facilities and basic services, many children in urban areas lack access to electricity, clean water and education. They are at high risk of contracting diseases due to unsanitary conditions, of suffering from malnutrition, of exploitation and trafficking, as well as becoming victims of violence.
Local authorities worldwide, often with the support of organisations such as UNDP, the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), and the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), are pushing back against the tide of urban poverty. According to UN-HABITAT estimates, between the year 2000 and 2010, a total 227 million people in the developing world have moved out of slum conditions. In other words, governments have collectively exceeded the slum target of MDG 7 by at least 2.2 times (compared to the targeted 100 million), 10 years ahead of the agreed 2020 deadline.
In March 2012, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that the number of impoverished people is declining across the world. The World Bank has announced that preliminary estimates indicate that the global target of halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty was achieved in 2010. A joint report by UNICEF and the UN World Health Organisation (WHO) showed that the world has met the MDG target of halving the number of people without access to safe drinking water.
Despite these giant strides forward, however, challenges remain, including massive disparities in social development between and within regions and countries. Success is highly skewed towards the more advanced emerging economies, while poorer countries have not done as well.