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Climate change, urban flooding, and the urban poor in Africa

The UN Millenium summit committed to achieving ‘a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers’ by 2020. However, in Africa – the world’s fastest urbanising region – climate change is threatening that goal.

To uncover the climate change reality for African urban poor, slum dwellers in six African cities were interviewed. The inhabitants reported how flooding has become more prevalent in recent years. This is unsurprising as climate change has increased heavy thunderstorms in sub-Saharan Africa, and forced rural migrants to the cities to escape unpredictable weather patterns – increasing urban activities and thus the flow of rainwater to the rivers.

Urban flooding in Africa can be catastrophic:

  • it affects peoples health through water-borne diseases and damages food
  • schools are closed and children have their education interrupted
  • people may not be able to get to work for long periods and may lose income or even their jobs

The paper looks to mitigate the effects of flooding by recommending that:

  • a community-based approach is adopted that incorporates slum dwellers into the decision- making processes
  • there is investment in proper and safe infrastructure – such as drainage
  • critical services such as health, water and sanitation are disaster prepared