An Invisible Population: The Changing Dynamic of a Growing Refugee Population

By Ryan Lasnick

The UN estimates that there are currently 59.5 million displaced people living in the world, the highest number in since World War II. While the common perception of refugees is an image of people living in rural tent cities set up by humanitarian organizations such as the UN, this is no longer the case. In fact, more than 55 percent of all refugees now live in urban areas, and this is consistently growing. The influx of refugees into urban environments poses vastly different problems than that of a traditional refugee camp and requires new and creative approaches.

Refugees in camps are afforded assistance and protection as part of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) mandate and as an incentive for the host country to keep them in one area. In contrast, urban refugees receive little assistance and what they do receive is insufficient to meet basic needs. A recent study by the Refugee Studies Centre stated that 78 percent of urban refugee households in Uganda manage to survive despite receiving no support of any form from UNHCR or other refugee-supporting agencies.

Fawaz Rarhail Turkey, 59, from Homs, Syria, pictured with his family outside a derelict house in Al Mafraq, Jordan, which they moved into after leaving Syria. "The army forced entry into our homes and we became afraid for our children so we were forced to

Syrian refugee Fawaz Rarhail Turkey stands with his family outside his home in Al Mafraq Jordan. “After the army forced their way into our homes we were afraid for our children’s safety and decided to flee the country,” he said. Andrew McConnell/IRC/Panos Pictures for the European Commission via Flickr.

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Green Infrastructure: Leveraging Natural Processes for Affordable Water Management

The global development community is gearing up to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September, illustrating a key shift in development priorities. Rather than focusing purely on goals and indicators, as the MDGs did, this new set of goals will additionally focus on the sustainability of development. One huge task is to provide global water security. Amidst rapid urbanization, water security in cities is a growing struggle, and providing water sustainably is even more of a challenge. A possible solution to this lies in “green infrastructure.”

“Green infrastructure” refers to a type of infrastructure engineered to maximize natural processes to manage water, mainly for cities and urban areas. These natural processes can include filtration through certain soils, flows of water through aqueducts and other gravity-based processes, or storing run-off water in certain specified land areas. These “green” processes can help control polluted run-off and erosion, as well as helping to sustainably and continually provide clean water for cities. Green infrastructure is distinguished from “gray infrastructure,” which includes the more typical basins, sewage systems, pipes, and filtration centers. Gray infrastructure can be expensive, cumbersome, and often subject to degradation over time. In many cases “green infrastructure” offers a sustainable way to manage, store, and distribute water because it utilizes natural processes instead of imposing artificial systems.

Lima, Peru is revitalizing a pre-incan canal system to more effectively manage water treatment and management.

Lima, Peru is revitalizing a pre-Incan canal system for more effective and sustainable water management and treatment.

One example of green infrastructure was recently in the news for its innovative approach to providing water to Peru’s desert capital city, Lima. In response to a growing water shortage, Lima has dedicated $22 million to restore an ancient, pre-Incan canal system. The canals funnel water from mountain streams into the mountain itself, where it percolates, filtrates, and releases slowly over the course of the dry season. “Gray infrastructure” water management techniques would send the water too quickly to Lima, which would result in mudslides and erosion in the wet season and severe water shortages in the dry season. The green infrastructure solution adds at least 1 cubic meter per second of water to the city. This solution is also cheaper than building a canal or storage facilities, especially in light of the rapid urbanization of the region. Lima is expected to grow by at least 700,000 people in the next five years, and green infrastructure solutions are flexible and sustainable even with that growth. Continue reading

Affordable Housing in Africa’s Growing Cities

By Ariel Gandolfo

On May 29, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the state-owned China International Trust and Investment Corporation’s subsidiary CITIC Construction launched CITICC (Africa) Holding Limited, a $300 million investment platform to develop 30,000 African homes over the next five years. Projects would begin in Nigeria, Rwanda, and Kenya and expand throughout the continent.

The deal addresses a crucial regional gap in housing finance. Kenya is short 2 million housing units, Nigeria a whopping 17 million units, and these numbers are set to grow. According to the World Bank Group, three billion people, or 40 percent of the world’s population, will need new homes in the next 15 years, most of them in Africa. The United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN Habitat) states that the African continent is experiencing the highest rate of urbanization in the world, with approximately 40,000 people migrating to cities every day.

Africa Cities Graphic

The graphic illustrates the scope of population growth in major cities across Africa. Source: Niti Bhan

A number of African cities already face housing shortages, with notorious informal settlements such as the massive Kibera slum outside Nairobi, Kenya, home to almost 1 million people. UN Habitat reports that in some countries, including Nigeria, Sudan, and the DRC, over half of urban populations live in slums. Continue reading

Weekly Roundup

This week in development…

U.S. Development Policy/International Organizations

  • As the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) approaches, access to sanitation and safe drinking water remains the ‘least improved’ A recent UN report found that 2.5 billion people lack access to basic sanitation facilities, while 1.8 billion people use contaminated water sources.
A water kiosk in Chipata, Zambia providing clean and sanitary water.

A water kiosk in Chipata, Zambia providing clean and sanitary water.

  • United Nation’s Population Fund (UNPF) recently released a major report on the State of the World Population. The report focuses on the economic potential of the 1.8 billion ‘youth bulge’, referring to the large global youth population many of whom are unemployed. The report estimates Africa’s growth to boost by a third if the continent invests enough in the younger generation. PPD earlier this year launched the Global Youth Wellbeing Index highlighting policies needed to capitalize on these demographic changes.

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