Accessibility links

Unjust waters: climate change, flooding and the urban poor in Africa

Poor people living in hazardous and unhealthy environments in urban areas may find their difficulties compounded by the consequences of climate change. These include those who construct their shelters on steep, unstable hillsides, or along the foreshore on former mangrove swamps or tidal flats. This paper considers the implications for the vulnerability of the urban poor in Africa using case studies of the worsening situation from Accra (Ghana), Kampala (Uganda), Nairobi (Kenya), Lagos (Nigeria), and Maputo (Mozambique).

The authors state that the two drivers of the worsening situation are climate change and local urban change. The latter causes alterations to the urban land surface and water pathways due to construction and the removal of vegetation. The emerging messages include:

  • urban flooding is becoming an increasingly severe problem for the urban poor
  • climate change is altering rainfall patterns and increasing the potential for floods
  • local human factors, especially urban growth, (settling in wetlands, poor waste management and lack of proper drainage channels) are worsening the flooding problem.

The following actions to mitigate the situation are recommended.

  • Training, capacity building and resource transfers can result in informed local level initiatives to reduce vulnerability and increase community participation.
  • Mapping decision processes for disaster mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery would identify critical actors at each jurisdictional level; their risk assumptions; their different types of information needs; and the design of an information infrastructure that would support their decisions.
  • Need global initiatives for adaptation to climate change to assist the people facing hazards to manage their own environments more responsibly and equitably over the long term. 
  • Steps need be taken to create awareness and build capacity within citycouncils for the application of the Hyogo framework and other relevantprotocols.

The paper concludes that more needs to be done to focus on the urban poor in international action on adaptation to climate change and disaster reduction. This calls for more international funding for adaptation to climate change to mitigate their problems.