Many of the poor in urban centres live in typically densely populated corridor areasalong riverbanks and railways. Others live in smaller clusters inside solid wastedumpsites. Many are illegal squatters who have occupied government- or private-owned land for a long period of time. Living conditions are extremely inadequate;many houses are in a pitiful condition, with limited space and no daylight. Some mayhave private toilets, while many use public toilets (which often have no runningwater).Poor households alter their eating habits by reducing consumption of more expensive foodssuch as milk, eggs, meat and vegetables or by decreasing the number of meals eaten per day.Children often bear an increasing burden, having to drop out of school and participate ingenerating household income. The poor often suffer higher levels of micronutrientdeficiencies and malnutrition, underweight childbirth and poor mental development amongchildren. There is often deterioration in personal security, with an expansion of the sex trade,child prostitution, HIV and other poverty-related illnesses.The factors influencing urban food insecurity are often consistent with urban problemseverywhere:
A large proportion of the population is dependent on wage labour to meet food needs. Asthese wage-earning opportunities disappear, huge competition is created in the informal job sector.
Often, formal safety nets are not available for the poorest, leaving large numbers of people without assistance.
Informal community safety nets may be weak in urban neighbourhoods.
Legal obstacles prevent the poorest from participating in the formal safety nets createdfor them.
Return to rural areas is not an option for many as they are from landless families;The major food aid donors and the UN/WFP can play a crucial role in addressing emerging problems for the urban poor by attending to food insecurity through food aid and byengaging in advocacy to raise concern for the urban hungry poor.
Food security of the urban poor is rooted in the political economy of the city, the socialstructure in which they live, the labour market and other factors. Poverty and food insecurityare inextricably bound together. and government spending - or lack of it - on health, nutritionand education can have major consequences .Households increasingly depend on total family income, with women under pressure to seek employment or participate in informal trading activities. This will also change the provisionof attention to childcare with ngatative implications for the health and nutritional status of children.External assistance is not confronting the underlying causes of poverty and food insecurity.Programmes and policies that enhance skills to match market opportunities and schemes thatcreate employment would be appropriate policy options in addressing urban poverty andfood insecurity issues.