In sub-Saharan Africa nearly three out of every four city dwellers live in an informal settlement. Despite these numbers, people often make the erroneous assumption that slum dwellers are socio-economically better off than rural residents.
The Millennium Cities Initiative’s experience has led us to understand that this is not necessarily the case; slum dwellers often face unique challenges not captured in national surveys, such as a lack of access to such critical services as education, health care, clean water, basic sanitation and adequate housing, as well as to productive employment opportunities.
Under Associate Director for Research Moumie Maoulidi’s direction, the initiative developed a ground-breaking Millennium Development Goals-based, Multi-Sector Household Survey, intended to examine poverty at the household level, gleaning information on the quality of life experienced by individuals living in informal settlements. The operating premise of this undertaking has been that MDG-based urban planning requires good quality information about the physical, socio-economic, spatial and environmental conditions of poor neighborhoods. The first of these surveys was piloted in three informal settlements in Kisumu, Kenya’s poorest city: Nyalenda A, Nyalenda B and Obunga.
Data on education, health, consumption, expenditures, household assets, housing amenities (such as water, sanitation and energy), employment and accessibility of roads were collected from more than 600 households. The geographic locations of households as well as schools, health establishments and water points were also recorded in order to ascertain the proximity of these service delivery facilities to households. Respondents were asked to identify infrastructure projects that they believe would improve their quality of life.
Enlisting support within those communities was essential to the survey’s success, and the Millennium Cities Initiative’s public health specialist in Kisumu, Beldina Opiyo-Omolo, helped to ensure that this was the case, through extensive consultations and focus groups with community leaders and members. The survey staff consisted of 12 enumerators and three field supervisors, while chiefs and community development assistants from the Kisumu City Council who were known to inhabitants of the areas served as local guides.
Moumie, Beldina, Shadrack Ngewa, the Millennium Cities Initiative social sector specialist for Kisumu, and Joy Morabu, the initiative’s regional advisor for East and Southern Africa, recently led a workshop to disseminate the survey results and discuss the findings with city and community stakeholders, providing them with information that can be used to guide municipal policies on what needs to be addressed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Thirty-four stakeholders participated, including traditional chiefs, elders and community development assistants from the Kisumu City Council, as well as representatives from community and non-governmental organizations. Participants identified inadequate public facilities, poor infrastructure and unsatisfactory delivery of social services as primary concerns for inhabitants of informal settlements. Leading members of the Kisumu City Council were also briefed on the workshop.
This workshop was significant because the majority of researchers traveling to developing countries to collect data rarely return to share their findings, yet the communities sincerely and appropriately wish to receive feedback. The Millennium Cities Initiative’s workshop gave the Kisumu-area stakeholders an opportunity to discuss our research findings and to suggest areas for improvement. Several workshop attendees expressed their appreciation, noting that the findings will allow stakeholders to develop policies that are evidence-based, and it will also help non-governmental organizations and other organizations design targeted interventions to address the specific combinations of challenges identified through the survey.
The findings from this survey will be discussed in greater detail at the Millennium Cities Initiative Kisumu Stakeholder Workshop this fall, which will bring together representatives from municipal government, the private sector and community organizations. These findings, along with the initiative’s needs assessments across public health, education, gender and water/sanitation, and similarly detailed research identifying promising investment opportunities, will help the city define its top development priorities as it strives to attain the Millennium Development Goals.
The Kisumu Millennium Development Goals Multi-Sector Household Poverty Survey will be released in September 2012. The second pilot of the Millennium Cities Initiative’s comprehensive household survey was conducted last month in Blantyre, Malawi, where data analysis is already underway.