Humanitarian Exchange articles tagged:Urban

Syria is a highly urbanised country, and the conflict there has had a particularly devastating impact on its cities and towns. Homs, Aleppo, Damascus and many smaller towns have served as battlegrounds for government and rebel offensives, with tragic humanitarian consequences for their inhabitants. The battles for these cities have caused the breakdown of entire urban systems, destroying homes and public services and distorting urban markets and economies. Urban demographics have changed significantly as millions of Syrians have abandoned their homes. People displaced from one city to another or from rural areas to urban environments are forced into close proximity;…
More than half of the world’s population has been urban since 2007/2008, and this is projected to rise to 60% by 2030, when almost 5 billion people will be living in cities. This global trend is radically changing the crisis landscape, both in terms of vulnerability and humanitarian need. A host of academic studies and popular books have warned of the growing risks associated with the speed and scale of urbanisation.[1] Yet the operational implications of urbanisation for humanitarian action have been underexplored.[2] This article outlines the changing nature and scale of risk and vulnerability accompanying the process of urbanisation,…
The earthquake in Bam, Iran, in December 2003 killed more than 26,000 people, injured 30,000 and left 75,600 homeless. The earthquake completely devastated the city: 85% of buildings and infrastructure was damaged or destroyed, largely because most buildings were built according to traditional methods, using sun-dried bricks. The UN estimated that 200,000 people were affected by loss of economic activity or damage to property in Bam and surrounding villages.   The cash programme in Bam: working through the welfare system In response to the earthquake, the British Red Cross, in conjunction with the Iranian Red Crescent, implemented a cash programme…
My niece was sick and died last year. I looked after her because nobody else was interested… She didn’t say that she had AIDS, but I knew and she knew … My main worry is that I won’t be able to work, and then what will happen?… I tell my kids that one day we will have a problem: I will die and they need jobs. But they have stopped looking… 54-year-old Zulu seamstress from Warwick Junction’s, Berea Railway Station, Durban, South Africa   For those of us who live, spend time or work with vulnerable groups in southern Africa,…
Zimbabwe has long been known for its rich agricultural potential. However, multiple shocks over the past three years, including widespread rainfall deficits, the impact of HIV/AIDS and political turmoil have resulted in a livelihoods crisis for the majority of the country’s rural and urban poor. Since 2002, the Consortium for Southern Africa Food Security Emergency (C-SAFE) has been addressing acute food security problems in Zimbabwe and other southern African countries. In addition to food aid interventions, C-SAFE has also piloted and implemented a market intervention programme, one of the first of its kind in an emergency context.   The Market…
Urban refugees have long existed in the Nairobi area, and international aid agencies have long been aware of them. Today, there are an estimated 40,000–100,000 in the city. Yet despite this significant presence, international aid agencies have only recently begun to address the needs of urban refugees. Why have urban refugees been ignored for so long, and why are their needs being recognised now? The often-cited ‘invisibility factor’ may have made it easier to ignore them. Like self-settled refugees elsewhere, those in Nairobi are living and working among the host community. They are geographically dispersed across the city, and many…
Tropical Storm Jeanne struck Haiti on 18 and 19 September 2004, unleashing torrential rains resulting in landslides and flooding that killed 3,000 people and left many more homeless. Gonaives, the country’s third-largest city with a population of 200,000, was worst hit. Flood waters inundated the city and made the primary road to the capital, Port-au-Prince, impassable. This was without doubt a devastating disaster. But it was underpinned by a complex social, environmental and political crisis, exemplified by the controversial ousting of President Jean Bertrand Aristide the previous February.   The immediate response CARE was the largest aid organisation in Gonaives,…
Three years after Operation Iraqi Freedom, the US-led invasion of Iraq, was launched in March 2003, the humanitarian situation in Iraq is more critical than ever. The crisis is devastating for Iraqi civilians, in terms of death, injury, displacement, the denial of fundamental human rights and basic needs and the destruction of homes, vital facilities and infrastructure. According to UNICEF, 30% of children are malnourished, and WFP reports that rates of acute malnutrition have reached 9%. Medicines are in short supply in most governorates, and water and electricity are lacking, even in the capital Baghdad. Almost 1.5 million people are…
Many disasters in Africa take place in urban areas, affecting millions of people each year. There is therefore an increasing need to understand how the risks from potential disasters develop in urban contexts, and to identify how locally owned processes can address these risks. To do this, the African Urban Risk Analysis Network (AURAN) has been formed by six African research institutions, with support from the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and ProVention. Work programmes are under way in Accra, Algiers, Cape Town, Dar es Salaam, Nairobi and Saint Louis (Senegal) to identify: the main disaster risks and who is most…
Climate change is projected to increase the likelihood and severity of a wide range of extreme weather events, many of which particularly affect urban area. Given urban areas’ high population densities, often including high concentrations of vulnerable people, increasing urban disaster risk should be a key concern in discussions of the adverse impacts of climate change.  This article presents two specific examples of increasing risks due to climate change in urban environments, and illustrates how Red Cross/Red Crescent societies address these concerns. The first case is the increasing risk of heat waves, illustrated by the 2003 heat wave in Western…
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