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OVERVIEW

Living conditions are the physical circumstances in which an individual or community lives, specifically related to shelter and protection from environmental hazards.

Size/Magnitude of Problem

Today, one billion people live in urban slums, which are typically overcrowded, polluted, and dangerous, and lack basic services such as clean water and sanitation. High urban land and housing costs are pushing the lowest-income people into locations vulnerable to natural hazards such as floods, which are becoming increasingly frequent due to climate change. From longstanding to emerging hazards, environmental factors are also a root cause of a significant burden of death, disease, and disability – particularly in developing countries.

  • We are experiencing the largest wave of urban growth in history, with more than half of the world’s population living in urban areas. The urban population is projected to rise to 5 billion by 2030.i
  • Four out of 10 non-permanent houses in the developing world are now located in areas threatened by floods, landslides, and other natural disasters.ii More than 90% of natural disaster-related deaths occur in developing countries.iii
  • Environmental factors (e.g. unsafe water, indoor smoke) are estimated to cause about 25% of death and disease globally, reaching nearly 35% in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa.iv
Desired Equilibrium

Every individual has adequate shelter and safety relative to the environment they live in and is empowered to responsibly manage the environment within which he or she lives. Governments invest in affordable housing and infrastructure and promote environmental sanitation practices. Companies are held accountable for the environmental impacts of their activities, and reduce pollution from their supply chains.

Ways Skoll social entrepreneurs are addressing the issue:
  • Supporting low-income communities to obtain adequate permanent housing with basic utilities (e.g. water, sanitation, electricity) (Slum Dwellers International, Gawad Kalinga, Saude Crianca)
  • Improving community environmental conditions by reducing waste and pollution (Ciudad Saludable, EcoPeace, Health Care Without Harm, Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, Slum Dwellers International, Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor)
  • Incorporating environmentally friendly design and products into housing developments (Barefoot College, BioRegional, Gawad Kalinga, Proximity Designs)
References

i UN Population Fund (link)
ii UN Habitat (link)
iii World Vision (link)
iv World Health Organization (link)
1 This metric is comprised of four sub-indicators: availability of affordable housing, access to electricity, quality of electricity supply, household air pollution attributable deaths.

Critical Geographies
Shelter1

As defined by SPI (< 35/100 score)
Central African Republic, Afghanistan, Madagascar, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Chad, Angola, Haiti, Liberia, Sudan, Malawi, Burkina Faso