The cities of Lilongwe, Blantyre, Mzuzu and Zomba last week launched Urban Profiles highlighting the priorities for improving life in all four centres of the southern African nation.
“I urge all the cities to utilize these profiles by using them to help in allocating development resources and also to help mobilize resources to address the identified challenges in their respective cities,” Mrs.Ivy Luhanga, the Principal Secretary for Local Government and Rural Development at the Malawi Cities Forum on citywide slum upgrading in the capital 23-25 January 2011. “I appeal to donors, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, academia and all city dwellers to work together and to support the efforts of the city councils in reducing poverty in our cities.”
Addressing the root causes of slums and putting in place response and preventive measures are at the top of the agenda for those committed to poverty reduction in Malawi. The Forum was organized by the Non-Governmental Centre for Community Organisation and Development, an affiliate of the Shack Dwellers International.
The conference was the first of its kind to take place in the country, and focused on slum upgrading, during which lessons learnt were drawn from a number of cities Malawi and neighbouring Southern African cities. It also provided an important forum for participants to discuss community led slum upgrading interventions.
Facts and figures from the profiles explain worrying trends that require urgent interventions to be put in place. Rapid urbanization has resulted in an increasing strain on social infrastructure and the inadequate provision of basic urban services. In addition, the cities of Mzuzu, Blantyre and Zomba are confronted with the challenge of inadequate capacity to control development in the city. About 76 per cent of the urban population in Lilongwe lives in informal settlements, as Zomba and Mzuzu host over 60 per cent. Increasing poverty levels and the lack of affordable housing further compounds the problem.
As such, citywide slum upgrading is a compelling agenda and calls for urgent action to embrace the urban and poverty reduction challenge. In response, a tripartite partnership among the African, Caribbean and Pacific Secretariat, European and UN-Habitat is supporting cities to respond to the challenge through the Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme. Malawi is one of the countries participating in the programme.