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20 Countries with the Largest Slum Population in the World

In this article, we take a look at the 20 countries with the largest slum population in the world. If you would like to skip our detailed analysis, you can directly go to the 5 Countries with the Largest Slum Population in the World.

What are Slums?

Slums are defined as densely populated and tightly packed urban areas, characterized by weakly built, incomplete houses that are inhabited mainly by the most impoverished communities within the city. According to UN-Habitat’s definition, slum housing lacks one or more of the following factors: durable infrastructure that is safe against extreme weather events, sufficient living space, affordable access to safe water, adequate sanitation, and prevention against forced evictions. Because of these issues, slums generally tend to have a high prevalence of infectious and communicable diseases and conditions that spread due to a lack of hygiene. 

The World’s Habitat Crisis

In 2020, the United Nations’ data revealed that almost 1.1 billion people had been living in slums or slum-like conditions. The UN estimates that by 2050, nearly two billion more individuals will be pushed to inhabiting such conditions. The world is facing a growing habitat crisis, and the problem is of such pertinence that SDG target 11.1 is dedicated to demanding its solution. The target states: “By 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe, and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums.” In 2020, almost 14% of the world’s population dwelled in slums, 85% of whom were concentrated in three regions: Central and Southern Asia, Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa. The two Asian regions collectively had 662 million people living in slums, whereas Sub-Saharan Africa had 230 million.  

Dharavi Slums

In 2016, the World Economic Forum reported that Dharavi in Mumbai, India, was one of the largest slums in the world, with an estimated population count of 1 million. The slum's informal economy can showcase a turnover of over $1 billion each year, which is why many residents have been opposed to the area's development plans. On January 24, 2023, Al Jazeera reported that the area's residents were unhappy with Adani Realty's plan for its redevelopment. In November 2022, Adani Realty had won a bid to redevelop Dharavi through a project estimated to be worth $2.4 billion. The project's main goal is to take people out of their shanties and resettle them into modern buildings. While Mumbai's other residents believe this will be a huge boost to the city's real estate, Dharavi's residents are worried about the livelihood they'll lose in the process.

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Dharavi is currently home to over 12,000 micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSME). In the process of resettlement, these businesses will also lose their manufacturing units and warehouses. According to Al Jazeera's news report, residents of Dharavi had complaints that no one from the government or the redevelopment team had consulted them about their needs and requirements. Moreover, the only families eligible for free resettlement under the plan are those who have been residents of Dharavi since before January 1, 2000. According to a survey from 2009, there are 58,000 such families. However, the total number of families in the region is around 100,000, many of whom are ineligible for free housing. These families will have the option to rent or buy the new properties. This leads to a situation of uncertainty for several of Dharavi's residents. As the redevelopment project inches forward, several families are worried about the loss of their existing homes and livelihoods.

Corporate Endeavors 

Corporate partnerships are one of the most significant ways governments and non-profit organizations tackle the habitat crisis. Holcim AG (SWX:HOLN) is a Swiss multinational manufacturing company with a presence in around 60 countries. The company also offers several innovative, affordable housing options to people who lack access to adequate housing opportunities. Holcim AG (SWX:HOLN) has partnered with institutions like the French Development Agency to provide microfinance programs to low-income individuals who lack the funds for adequate housing. 

Holcim AG (SWX:HOLN) also provides construction solutions such as modular housing templates and DURABRIC, an alternative to traditional clay bricks. DURABRIC consists of a cement binder mixed with earth, which results in extra weather-resistant bricks. DURABRIC does not require firing like conventional bricks, which makes it environmentally friendly. The company has partnered with the UK’s Development Finance Institution to produce and promote this earth-cement building solution. So far, affordable housing initiatives by Holcim AG (SWX:HOLN) are available in 25 countries, some of which are India, Kenya, Nigeria, and Zambia. 

ArcelorMittal S.A. (AMS:MT) is a steel manufacturing corporation based in Luxembourg. The company has partnered with Habitat for Humanity since 2006, a non-profit organization that helps low-income communities build affordable homes. In 2023, Habitat for Humanity announced that ArcelorMittal S.A. (AMS:MT) had renewed a ten-year partnership with the NGO. This venture is set to provide financial assistance, product donations, and technical expertise to Habitat’s various projects across Europe. The partnership will mainly focus on energy-resilient housing solutions, community centers, and social housing units. The goal is to decrease the energy costs levied on low-income families and bring them out of energy poverty. 

Japan Tobacco International (JTI), a subsidiary of Japan Tobacco Inc. (TYO:2914), is another enterprise that has been partnering up with Habitat for Humanity for years. Japan Tobacco Inc. (TYO:2914) is one of the world’s leading tobacco companies, headquartered in Tokyo, Japan. Since 2013, JTI and Habitat for Humanity have collectively worked on water, sanitation, and hygiene projects (WASH) in countries such as Bangladesh, Mexico, and Ethiopia. The collaboration provides projects such as newly-built toilets, integrated health facilities, and hygiene awareness trainings. 

Two of the latest projects in the collaboration were launched in 2023 in Bolivia and Indonesia. The Bolivian project will impact 76,570 individuals through hygiene solutions and awareness programs. The Indonesian project will help 207,122 individuals by providing newly constructed toilets and improved water sources. Both projects will run for three years. Japan Tobacco Inc. (TYO:2914) will help these projects through the JTI Global WASH Fund. 

Several slum-filled populations around the globe are still struggling with basic access to many of these fundamental facilities, which is why corporate partnerships like the ones by ArcelorMittal S.A. (AMS:MT) and Japan Tobacco Inc. (TYO:2914) can be quite helpful in alleviating their distress. The literature on these populations is also severely limited, which can prevent actions from being taken in the required domains. Based on this context, here are 20 countries with the world’s largest slum populations.

20 Countries with the Largest Slum Population in the World
20 Countries with the Largest Slum Population in the World

Our Methodology 

In order to compile this list of the 20 countries with the world’s largest slum populations, we consulted the World Bank dataset, which lists the percentage of each country’s urban population that is living in slums. The countries are ranked in ascending order of the percentage of urban population living in slums, for the latest available year. In order to tiebreak, we utilized the absolute values of the total urban population of each country for the respective years, also by the World Bank. If two different-sized populations had the same percentage of slum-housed individuals, the bigger population would have a higher absolute number of people living in slums. 

We have listed both metrics and their respective years as the sub-headings for each country. Note that data is slightly outdated for some countries because of data limitations. Further information for specific countries has been sourced from the Participatory Slum Upgrading Program (PSUP). PSUP is a program by the UN-Habitat that works to improve living conditions for slum-dwellers. Based on this methodology, here are 20 countries with the largest slum population in the world:

20 Countries with the Largest Slum Population in the World

20. Mozambique 

Total Urban Population (2020): 11,559,020 Percentage of Urban Population living in Slums (2020): 55%

Mozambique is one of the countries with the largest slum population in the world, with approximately six million individuals living in urban slums. According to a research article by Shiras et al. in BMC International Health and Human Rights, 70% of Maputo’s population lives in slum-like dwellings, which is the country’s capital. 

19. Mauritania

Total Urban Population (2020): 2,488,943 Percentage of Urban Population living in Slums (2020): 56%

About 56% of Mauritania’s urban population lives in slum-like dwellings, which amounts to more than 1 million individuals. This is why Mauritania joined the Participatory Slum Upgrading Program by the UN-Habitat in 2018. 

18. Pakistan

Total Urban Population (2020): 84,437,669 Percentage of Urban Population living in Slums (2020): 56%

Almost 47 million people live in slum-like houses in Pakistan, which makes it one of the countries with the largest slum populations in the world. According to a 2016 article by the World Economic Forum, Orangi Town in Karachi, Pakistan, is home to one of the world’s largest slums. 

17. Ecuador

Total Urban Population (2006): 8,672,589 Percentage of Urban Population living in Slums (2006): 58%

The urban population of Ecuador has around 5 million slum dwellers, which makes up 56% of the total. Ecuador is also one of the countries where Holcim AG (SWX:HOLN) offers microfinance and technical assistance opportunities. 

16. Myanmar

Total Urban Population (2020): 16,636,518 Percentage of Urban Population living in Slums (2020): 58%

In October 2020, Reuters reported that the second COVID-19 lockdown had pushed Myanmar’s slum-dwellers to eat rats and insects as food became increasingly unaffordable. Myanmar is home to one of the world’s largest slum populations, consisting of more than 9 million individuals. 

15. Guinea-Bissau

Total Urban Population (2020): 890,915 Percentage of Urban Population living in Slums (2020): 61%

National and local governments in Guinea-Bissau have partnered with the UN-Habitat since 2015 to work on several urban projects, including improving informal settlements and developing essential urban services. 

14. Angola

Total Urban Population (2020): 22,338,586 Percentage of Urban Population living in Slums (2020): 63%

The decades-long civil war in Angola, from 1975 to 2002, has left an enormous impact on urban settlements, forcing many to live in poverty and slums. Luanda, Angola’s capital, is home to several slum populations. In total, the country houses around 14 million slum-dwellers. 

13. Liberia

Total Urban Population (2020): 2,650,072 Percentage of Urban Population living in Slums (2020): 64% 

Liberia is one of the countries with the largest slum populations in the world, which ranks it 13th on our list. Around 64% of the country’s urban population, or 1.6 million individuals, currently live in slums or slum-like conditions. 

12. Ethiopia

Total Urban Population (2020): 25,424,568 Percentage of Urban Population living in Slums (2020): 64%

According to data from Habitat for Humanity, around 35% of Ethiopian properties have only one room, which leads to overcrowding and insufficient living space. In Addis Ababa, the country’s capital, only 7% of houses have a sewer system, and nearly 25% of residents have no toilet access. The country houses one of the world’s largest slum populations. 

11. Nicaragua

Total Urban Population (2010): 3,332,908 Percentage of Urban Population living in Slums (2010): 67% 

More than 2.2 million urban citizens of Nicaragua live in slum-like conditions, which make up almost 67% of the total urban population. Thus, Nicaragua is one of the countries with the largest slum populations in the world. 

10. Madagascar

Total Urban Population (2020): 10,876,290 Percentage of Urban Population living in Slums (2020): 67%

In Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo, there is a 70% prevalence of slums, according to data by PSUP. Furthermore, the city of Manakara has a 75% prevalence of slums. These are also two main cities where the PSUP has been initialized to combat the issue. 

9. Benin

Total Urban Population (2020): 6,121,168 Percentage of Urban Population living in Slums (2020): 68% 

Benin joined the PSUP in 2012, aiming to focus on the urban development of its slums. The country has identified three main urban priorities through data collection: inadequate drainage, sanitation, and waste management. Even as the country continues to work on these issues, it still hosts one of the world’s largest slum populations. 

8. Comoros

Total Urban Population (2018): 224,859 Percentage of Urban Population living in Slums (2018): 69% 

Even though Comoros has a small urban population compared to many other countries on this list, 69% of this population currently dwells in slum-like conditions. This makes Comoros 8th on our list of countries with the largest slum populations in the world. 

7. Central African Republic

Total Urban Population (2016): 1,991,979 Percentage of Urban Population living in Slums (2016): 69% 

Central African Republic is home to more than 1.37 million slum dwellers, which make up 69% of the country’s total urban population. Poverty caused by armed conflict and violence is one of the main reasons for the country’s adequate housing crisis. 

6. Niger

Total Urban Population (2018): 3,708,282 Percentage of Urban Population living in Slums (2018): 70% 

PSUP reports that more than 70% of Niger’s population lives in extreme poverty, whereas every four in five individuals live in slums. Niamey, the country’s capital, has a 70% prevalence of slums, with only 40% of its population having proper access to basic services. This is why Niger is sixth on our list of countries with the largest slum populations in the world. 

Click to continue reading and see the 5 Countries with the Largest Slum Population in the World

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Disclaimer: None. 20 Countries with the Largest Slum Population in the World is originally published on Insider Monkey.