Slum Britain art highlights urban poverty across the globe

Press release, 20 December 2013

  • UK landmark ‘make-unders’ illustrate catastrophic effect of poverty on developing world cities
  • Majestic Buckingham Palace sits next to poverty-ridden slums, while Edinburgh Castle looks down on shocking scenes
  • Charity Practical Action commissioned project to highlight its Safer Cities appeal, which is providing some of the poorest people in Nepal and Bangladesh with bare necessities of clean water, sanitation and safe housing

Buckingham Palace, Parliament Square, Birmingham’s Selfridges building, Edinburgh Castle, and Brighton Pier sit in stark contrast to the stinking rubbish tips and filthy slums of the poorest cities in the world.

The pictures have been commissioned by UK-based development charity Practical Action to highlight the reality of life for the one billion people who live in slums.

Every day, 15,000 people desperate to earn more money for their families move to cramped urban slums in south Asia. They do so because the cities do not have the infrastructure to cope with the new arrivals who are forced to find basic shelter without access to clean water and toilets.

The pictures are designed to show what Britain would look like if the UK was experiencing similar urbanisation to Nepal and Bangladesh.

Practical Action CEO Simon Trace said: “Urban poverty is a global problem which needs to be addressed immediately. Every day people are dying because they are forced to drink water contaminated with human waste and live in housing which will collapse when earthquakes, high winds or flood waters come.

“We are calling for greater attention to be given to the plight of the growing proportion of the world’s poor population living in urban areas (half of the world’s poorest people are expected to be living in cities by 2030). In many ways these people are at least as badly off and sometimes worse off that their rural counterparts with their meagre wages often insufficient to cover the most basic human needs of clean water, sanitation , shelter and food.

“Practical Action helps to provide long-term solutions to these issues for poor people around the globe. We provide clean water and toilets, give training so that families are self-sufficient and help get children to school so that we can stop this cycle of poverty, via our Safer Cities appeal.

“The British Government has made a commitment to matching every penny this appeal raises in the run up to Christmas and I would urge people to check out our work via our website

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said: “By matching pound for pound all public donations to this appeal, we will help Practical Action provide safe drinking water and basic sanitation to over four thousand people living inslums in Bangladesh and Nepal.

“As well as day-to-day health benefits, this will reduce the spread of potentially deadly water-borne diseases that follow regular seasonal flooding. Better hygiene isn’t just vital to save lives, it means people can focus on earning money and taking care of their families."

Urban poverty in numbers:

  • In 2007, the earth’s urban population overtook its rural population for the first time in human history, driven mainly by growth in cities in developing countries.
  • Of the three billion urban residents in the world today, one billion live in slums, and are vulnerable to disease, violence, and social, political and economic exclusion.
  • UN-Habitat estimates that the world’s slum population will double in the next 30 years
  • 5.5 million people move into slums in South East Asia every year – equivalent to 15,000 a day
  • In Bangladesh 53 million people live below the poverty line ($1.25 a day)
  • In Nepal, 85 per cent of the population do not have access to basic healthcare
  • By 2030, 6 out of every 10 people will live in a city
  • By 2050, this proportion will increase to 7 out of 10 people, meaning an estimated 6.4bn people will live in cities
  • Almost all urban population growth in the next 30 years will occur in cities of developing countries

Notes to editors

Practical Action, with funding support from the Department for International Development is working in towns and cities in Nepal and Bangladesh where slum dwellers live in desperate conditions at risk from exploitation, exclusion, disease, natural disasters and grinding poverty.

The work will help slum-dwellers form their own small groups from which they can access clean water and sanitation, education, training, healthcare and support for setting up their own small businesses. 

About Practical Action

Practical Action uses technology to challenge poverty in more than 40 developing countries across the world. Through technology we enable poor communities to build on their skills and knowledge to produce sustainable and practical solutions - transforming their lives forever and protecting the world around them.

Practical Action has offices in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Peru, Sudan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, and their consultancy work extends across Africa, Asia and Latin America.

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For all media enquiries, please contact Andy Heath or Nick Milton, Practical Action Press & Media Officers.

UK office hours: + 44 (0)1926 634552
Out of hours: +44 (0) 07800884267

Mobile: +44 (0) 7880 622059

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