UNICEF calls for an inclusive urban strategy to address inequalities in urban slumsDhaka, 21 December 2010 – UNICEF and the Centre for Urban Studies today called the Government to include a socially inclusive urban development strategy in its sixth Five-Year National Development Plan to address large inequalities between urban slums and rest of the country. This call was made at the launch of a policy paper entitled ‘Understanding urban inequalities in Bangladesh: a prerequisite for achieving Vision 2021’ jointly organized by UNICEF and the Centre for Urban Studies in Dhaka.
Pr Nazrul Islam, Chairman University Grants Commission of Bangladesh and urban specialist, chaired the event while Carel de Rooy, UNICEF Representative, presented UNICEF’s paper.
The document challenges the widely held belief that the situation of urban dwellers in Bangladesh is generally better than those living in rural areas. Analyzing the 2009 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) data, it reveals that living conditions in slums are much worse than those in most rural areas. In slums, the under-five mortality rate (95 per 1000 live birth) is almost double the urban rate and almost 50 per cent higher than the rural rate. Slums also have very high rates of school drop-outs and repetition, and record three times more child labour than the national average. In slums, the birth registration rate is only half the national rate.
The study also highlights that Bangladesh is experiencing one of the most rapid urbanization process in Asia with about 41 million people now living in urban area. The population of slums is estimated to be about 7 million people in 2010.
“The natural trend towards urbanization cannot simply be halted or reversed’, said UNICEF Representative Carel de Rooy, while presenting the policy paper. ‘In fact it is inherent to the country’s evolution from a low income country to a middle-income country. Yet data indicates blatant inequalities in slums areas. There is an urgent need to invest in human capital development in the slums in order to achieve MDGs with equity.’
According to UNICEF Representative, people in Bangladesh migrate from rural to urban areas in search of economic opportunities, not in search of basic social services. In fact, he said, such services are mostly non-existent in slums and when they exist, they are provided through unscrupulous middlemen using exploitative means. Access to health, education, power, water supply, sanitation and waste management is very limited for the urban poor.
‘To realize Vision 2021, the Government should plan for inclusive urban development and poverty reduction’, said Pr Nazrul Islam, Chairman University Grants Commission of Bangladesh.
UNICEF’s policy paper underlines that an inclusive policy framework for urbanization would help find sustainable and affordable solutions to meet the basic needs of the vulnerable population living in slums. If adequate investments are done and inequalities addressed, the large productive population living in slums could better contribute towards the acceleration of economic growth instead of becoming a social and economic burden.