Poverty is becoming an urban problem, warns global food policy report
New Delhi: As people across developing nations migrate to cities, poverty and malnutrition often migrate along with them and become urban problems, said the Global Food Policy Report released by the Washington-headquartered think-tank International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) on Thursday.
Due to rising migration to cities, rates of poverty are shrinking faster in rural than urban areas, the report said, adding, “a higher proportion of rural residents are covered by social safety nets than urban ones”.
According to the report, close to 90% of the projected urban population increase is concentrated in Africa and Asia, with China, India and Nigeria alone expected to add 900 million urban residents by 2050. This phenomenon is creating a new set of challenges for addressing poverty and nutrition, it said.
For the urban poor, expenses on food comprise a large share of their total expenditure, but they are mostly dependent on the vagaries of informal employment, it added.
Both formal employment and safety nets are less accessible for the poor and in countries like India, close to 78% of the population is employed in the informal sector in urban and semi-urban areas, the report said.
In India, 17% of the urban population or an estimated 65 million people live in slums and close to half of them suffer due to respiratory diseases and spend a tenth of their income on related treatment, the report said, quoting studies.
It added that the urban poor in India often lack access to affordable healthcare but about 66% households consume high-fat packaged snacks.
According to the report, “India faces a paradoxical situation—its rapid economic growth is coupled with a much slower decline in undernutrition”, despite government schemes on subsidised food, free mid-day meals to school going children, and subsidised cooking gas to poor households.
Observing that unplanned urbanization is progressing rapidly and without critical civic amenities, the report lauded new government initiatives in India.
“The government of India recognizes these problems and is ambitiously planning to create 100 ‘smart’ cities by 2022—cities that are sustainable and citizen-friendly to improve urban living conditions,” the report said.
The food policy report also praised government initiatives in India to improve the state of agriculture. The pledge to double farm incomes by 2022, a “path-breaking crop insurance scheme” and the electronic platform for trading of farm produce shows the priority it accords to the farm sector, the report said.