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Rural Poor are Better off Than Slum Dwellers: UN Report

Slum dwellers in developing countries, including India and Bangladesh, are as badly off as, if not worse off than, their rural relatives, says a new UN-HABITAT report released Saturday //.

As the locus of poverty shifts from rural areas to urban centres, UN-HABITAT's "State of the World's Cities" report provides concrete data to reveal that the world's one billion slum dwellers are more likely to die earlier, experience more hunger and disease, attain less education and have fewer chances of employment than the urban residents who do not reside in a slum.

The report shows that there are remarkable similarities between slums and rural areas in health, education, employment and mortality.

"It shows how in countries such as Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Haiti and India, child malnutrition in slums is comparable to that of rural areas."

Breaking the myth that urban populations are healthier, more literate and more prosperous than rural populations, the study reveals that "the urban poor suffer from an urban penalty, as such slum dwellers in developing countries are as badly off, if not worse off than their rural relatives.

"For a long time, we suspected that the optimistic picture of cities did not reflect the reality on the ground," said UN-HABITAT's executive director Anna Tibaijuka.

"This report provides concrete evidence that there are two cities within one city - one part of the urban population that has all the benefits of urban living, and the other part, the slums and squatter settlements, where the poor often live under worse conditions than their rural relatives."

Tibaijuka has urged donor agencies and national governments to recognise the urban penalty and specifically target additional resources to improve the living conditions of slum dwellers.

The report comes at a time when the world is entering a historic urban transition. In 2007, for the first time in history, the w
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