Global slum upgrading programme moves into high gear.

UN-Habitat this week announced the implementation of its Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme in member countries of the Brussels-based Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group (ACP) thanks to the support of the European Commission.

The announcement was made a meeting of the sixth session of the World Urban Forum attended by slum upgrading teams from 21 countries, local and national government, civil society, academic institutions and private sector.

"In view of the current situation, it is obvious that the launch of the implementation of the Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme comes at a time when the world is demanding more action to prevent slum proliferation," UN-Habitat's Deputy Executive Director Dr. Aisa Kacyira told the gathering.

"When we speak of slum upgrading, we are talking about ensuring that families have access to basic social amenities and infrastructure that include decent shelter, water, sanitation, schools and health facilities," she said.

According to the latest UN-Habitat research carried in the 2012 Millennium Development Goals Report of the Secretary-General, the share of urban slum residents in the developing world declined from 39 per cent in 2000 to 33 per cent in 2012. More than 200 million of these people gained access to improved water sources, improved sanitation facilities, or durable or less crowded housing, thereby exceeding the Millennium slum target. This achievement comes well ahead of the 2020 deadline.

But despite a reduction in the percentage of urban populations living in slums, the absolute number of slum dwellers continues to grow. Fed by an accelerating pace of urbanisation, 863 million people are now estimated to be living in slums compared to 650 million in 1990 and 760 million in 2000. Officials insist that the achievement of the Millennium target does not lessen the need to improve the lives of the urban poor and to curb the increase in numbers of slum dwellers.

Ms. Raymond Dominique Michelle, the ACP Assistant-Secretary-General said: "We are working with cities and countries to ensure that citizens have access to basic services and infrastructure, "she said.

Six ministers from participating African countries lauded the launch and noted that it paved the way for practical solutions to urbanisation challenges affecting their citizens.

"My country is in the process of making policy and practical interventions that help our people. The Programme is helping to improve service delivery. Already, since last year, 15 districts are in the process of upgrading interventions which include provision of infrastructure and basic services. Every district will eventually have eight health centres, amongst other minimum services provided," said Ms. Emerine Kabanshi the Minister for Local Government and Housing in Zambia.

The Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme is one of UN- Habitat's key interventions aimed at mobilising partners and resources to contribute to poverty reduction. The programme is being implemented with funding from the European Commission and partnership with the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States.