Cities face 100 million 'new poor' in post- coronavirus pandemic world

100 million people in cities around the world will fall into poverty because of coronavirus, World Bank warns

  • Crowded cities lacking water or sewage are on the front line, experts say
  • Cities will see a drop of 15 to 25 per cent in tax revenues because of the crisis
  • World Bank says cities are lacking accurate data about slum neighbourhoods
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Some 100 million city dwellers around the world are likely to fall into poverty because of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Bank has warned. 

Densely populated cities are on the front line of the outbreak – especially in slums where people are lacking running water, sewage systems or health care, urban experts said.  

Those problems will become harder to solve because cities will see a drop of 15 to 25 per cent in tax revenues as a result of the crisis, it is feared. 

‘Within cities we need to focus on those who need help the most, the poor and the vulnerable have been very seriously affected,’ said Sameh Wahba, a global director for the World Bank.  

People in crowded cities are on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic, experts warn (pictured, one of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas)  

‘Our estimate is that there will be possibly upward of a 100 million so-called “new poor” on account of loses of jobs and livelihoods and income,’ Wahba told reporters.

Many cities lack accurate data about slum areas, making it difficult to know where investments should be targeted, experts say.  

A World Bank mapping tool using satellite imagery is helping cities find areas where people use communal toilets or where social distancing is impractical, Wahba said.  

So far the tool has been used to produce such maps for Cairo, Mumbai and Kinshasa.

Experts at the World Bank have carried out research along with those at the World Resources Institute and other groups. 

Without data, government food and financial aid is not reaching slum areas where about one billion people live worldwide, said activist Sheela Patel.

‘Whether you are a slum dweller, or a pavement dweller, a squatter or a homeless person, and if you are migrant, you are presently completely excluded from any form of entitlement in the city,’ said Patel, head of an Indian rights group.  

Reaching vulnerable communities during and after the pandemic means recognising how systems such as water, health, housing and transport are connected, said Ani Dasgupta, global director of the WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.

Investments must ensure that systems are integrated and not be ‘simple top-down central projects,’ he said.

‘We have to learn from this,’ said Dasgupta. ‘We actually have to do things differently.’

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