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Addressing Urban Poverty: What Works, What Doesn’t?

PPRC organized a consultation with NGOs and CBOs working with Urban Poverty in Bangladesh on 18th May at LGED. Representatives from organizations such as Unicef, UNDP, Concern Worldwide, BRAC, Plan International shared their thoughts on ‘Addressing Urban Poverty: What works, What doesn’t?” The program also included professors, health professionals, rights activists and members of various CBOs. Discussion on Rural-Urban differences in poverty alleviation strategies brought to light key interventions in housing, health, and education.

Although rapid urbanization and the accompanying rise in urban poverty is a major issue that Bangladesh is currently facing, there is currently no specific strategy at the national level to tackle it. Lack of proper integrated governance, low budgeting priorities as well as implementation failures were some of the major obstacles in addressing urban poverty as mentioned by the participants.

Community members gave credit to NGOs and INGOs who have significantly improved their lives in slums and low income areas. Through different projects, these organizations have helped set up latrines, tube wells, proper roads, street lights, education and health centres. However, despite the small benefits, all participants collectively agreed that projectised method of service delivery is not helpful in the long run. There was a clear demand for government bodies to provide services such as education and healthcare.

One of the top priorities for the urban poor is permanent residence. One CBO representative said, “We have one demand – permanent resettlement. While all other services are important, however resettlement is most important.” This was echoed by others who said problems related to education, sanitation and healthcare can all be tied to the issue of housing.

Dr. Hossain Zillur Rahman, Executive Chairman (PPRC) with Ashekur Rahman, Head of Poverty and Urbanization (UNDP) and Dr. Nurul Islam Nazem, Professor of Geography and Environment (Dhaka University)

Ashekur Rahman, Head of Poverty and Urbanization (UNDP), reminded the participants of the increasing percentage of private slums. He mentioned that 90% of the slums in Sylhet are on private land. Due to this reality, he suggested rental housing as a solution.

Dr. Hossain Zillur Rahman, Executive Chairman, PPRC stressed the need for a comprehensive national Urban Poverty Policy that can guide government bodies, the development sector as well as the private sector. He said, “The urban poor are a vital part of the service economy. They are part of the growth driver and need to be portrayed as such. Without pro-poor urban development, there is no urban development.”