Urban poor

Urban poor at risk in 2022

Chilling Prospects 2022

Chapter 1.3

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Among the 54 high-impact countries, the number of urban poor at high risk increased by 24.8 million compared to last year, up to 796.5 million people. While electricity access gaps continued to decline in both rural and urban areas, the number of people living in extreme poverty in the 54 high-impact countries increased by an additional 16 million.  

Figure 1.8: Urban poor population by country at high risk due to a lack of access to cooling 

Approximately 796.5 million people living in poor urban settings in high-impact countries are at high risk because they lack access to cooling. These people may have some access to electricity, but the quality of their housing is likely too poor to protect them from extreme heat, and their income may not be sufficient to purchase or run a fan. They may own or have access to a refrigerator, but intermittent electricity supplies may mean that food often spoils and there is a high risk of poor nutrition or food poisoning.

In high-impact countries, the number of urban poor at high risk rose significantly in the 2022 analysis, by approximately 24.8 million people from 771.6 million in 2021 to 796.5 million today. Since the beginning of the tracking effort in 2018, the number of urban poor at risk has increased dramatically, by 93.2 million people. This is due to a number of factors, including fast-growing urbanization across the 54 high-impact countries and associated challenges. This includes electricity access, which has risen consistently in the urban areas of high-impact countries during the last two decades but can often be marginal or unreliable during a heat wave. Poor urban dwellers also face specific risks related to increased heat exposure and challenges in accessing quality housing, green spaces and public cooling resources, particularly the growing number living in slums or informal settlements within the high-impact countries. Risks are exacerbated for the portion of the urban population that lives in extreme poverty, and in 2020–2021 the COVID-19 pandemic halted an otherwise declining trend in the number of people living on less than USD 1.90 a day in the 54 high-impact countries.  

Figure 1.9: Access to cooling: risk trends for the urban poor (2000–2019)

India, China and Nigeria remain the top three countries in absolute numbers for the urban poor. Together, they accounted for an increase of over 16 million in the urban poor population with India experiencing the most significant increase of 10.5 million people, or 6 percent compared to last year. The highest relative proportional increase of urban poor populations between 2021 and 2022 were seen in Yemen (10 percent) and Myanmar (7 percent).  Significant decreases in urban poor populations were observed in Papa New Guinea (-11 percent), while Lao PDR and Timor-Leste saw the second biggest decrease at -3.9 percent each. Among the top 10 countries by absolute numbers, only Brazil and the Philippines saw the number of urban poor at high risk decline compared to 2021. 

Table 1.3: Top 10 countries with urban poor at risk (2020–2022, thousand)

Regional analysis

High-impact countries for access to cooling in Asia and the Middle East account for the majority of urban poor at high risk, and consistent growth in Africa has also been observed. For the first time since the beginning of the tracking effort, the number of urban poor at risk in Latin America and the Caribbean decreased.  

Figure 1.10: Urban poor regional breakdown (2018–2022)

Among African high-impact countries, the number of urban poor at risk grew by 7.8 million people, from 230.5 million last year to 238.3 million in 2022, representing 30 percent of the at-risk urban poor population globally. Nigeria accounted for 45 percent of the increase among African countries, with 3.5 million additional people among the urban poor. In addition to Nigeria, Angola, Cote d’Ivoire, Mozambique and Sudan all have urban poor populations above 10 million, while Chad, Malawi, Mozambique and Somalia all saw 5 percent increases in 2022 compared to 2021. 

In 16 high-impact countries in Asia and the Middle East, 512.3 million urban dwellers are at high risk due to a lack of access to cooling, representing 64 percent of the urban poor population globally. As a proportion of the total urban population of these countries, just over a quarter, or 26 percent, are at high risk. Among this group, nine countries have urban poor populations that represent over 30 percent of all urban residents, led by Yemen where 74 percent of all urban residents are at high risk. 

Figure 1.11: Share of urban poor as a proportion of urban dwellers in Asia and the Middle East (2022)

In the six Latin America and Caribbean countries considered high impact for access to cooling there was a reduction in the number of urban poor of over 420,000. This was driven by Brazil, which saw a reduction in its urban poor population of approximately 800,000 people, offset by marginal increases in Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Paraguay and Peru.