The Shocking Stats on Your Neighbors in Latin America

The alarming numbers reflect the enormous work to be done

By Débora Montesinos, HIPGive contributor

Did you know that 104 million people in Latin American cities live in informal settlements? That one in five Latin Americans has never been to an urban area?

According to the nonprofit that reported these figures, this reality is what inspired governments and civil society organizations to include solving this terrible reality in the New Urban Agenda. The Agenda, which was created after a Habitat conference in October 2016, is a guide for urban development in the next 20 years.

One of the organizations that participated in its creation, TECHO, has worked toward the impossible—to ensure that people throughout Latin America have a habitable home, with sanitation to satisfy the basic needs, and that the cities they live in are equitable, sustainable, and just.

TECHO argues that inequality must be tackled at its root. This makes good sense, considering that Latin America is the most urbanized region of the world, but also the most unequal.

The organization, which works in 19 countries in Latin America, has combed through the region and registered more than 5,000 informal settlements, which it describes as the “largest expression of inequality in the most unequal region in the world.”

The Discoveries

Thanks to TECHO’s work, today we have a clear picture of the situation in different countries. For example:

  • In the last five years, between 2011 and 2016, the number of people living in informal settlements in Chile grew from 27,378 families in 657 settlements, to 38,7070 at 660 sites.
  • In Argentina, a 2013 study found that in the area of the country inhabited by 60% of the population, there are 1,834 informal settlements. 43.2% of these zones are more than 30 years old, and 47% host more than 500 families.
  • In Costa Rica, in 2014 they found 394 informal settlements. 61.7% did not have access to potable water.
  • In 2015, in Nicaragua they visited six areas of Managua, where they found 198 settlements. In total, there are more than 402, and 89% of them are in or nearby unsafe areas.
  • In five municipalities in Guatemala, which were visited in 2016, they found 314 informal settlements. In 69% of them, people have informal employment.
  • In 2015, in Bogota, Colombia they found 125 informal settlements. 65% of these are inhabited by displaced people.

The Way Forward

Though these numbers seem overwhelming, the first step to creating change is always understanding the issue. Thanks to TECHO’s work, Latin American leaders have a clear picture of this dire situation. This knowledge, coupled with the strategy and momentum behind the New Urban Agenda, can help pave the road to progress.