The most disaster-prone regions in the world also have the biggest slum populations, and that combination that could prove disastrous in the years ahead, according to a new report by the World Bank.

East Asia and the Pacific collectively hold more than 250 million slum-dwelling residents. These areas often lack basic basic water and sanitation systems and are highly vulnerable to flooding during monsoon seasons.

In its report, the World Bank urges the governments of these countries and the broader global community to invest in stronger infrastructure to make these areas more resilient and day-to-day life more bearable for residents.

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“Cities across East Asia have propelled the region’s tremendous growth,” said Victoria Kwakwa, World Bank Vice President for East Asia and the Pacific in a statement. “Our collective challenge is to expand opportunities to all in the cities – from new migrants living in the peripheries to factory workers struggling to pay rent – so that they can benefit more from urbanization and help fuel even stronger growth.”

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Globally, rising sea levels could displace up to two billion people by the end of the century, but the areas least capable of absorbing this displacement are countries like China, Indonesia, and the Philippines, which account for the bulk of East Asia and the Pacific’s population living in extreme poverty, which is measured at having less than $1.90 a day.

Urban growth is expected to rise further in the decades ahead, and the looming threat posed by climate change could go one of two ways, according to the World Bank.

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Either urban investments could be neglected and infrastructure and natural resources are destroyed by natural disasters, causing mass exoduses that could strain emergency response systems and the resiliency of less-prone areas, lead to conflict and famines, and more.

Or investments could be made and these risks could be mitigated.

Global Citizen campaigns on the Global Goals, which call for the development of smarter, more resilient cities. You can take action on this issue here.

The World Bank recommends 10 areas for investment, including expanding job opportunities, making housing and land affordable, targeting aid to marginalized groups, investing in better data systems, among others.

Ultimately, the multinational organization argues that improving the lives of those living in poverty will make cities throughout the region stronger.

Over the past several decades, the region has seen the sharpest reduction of people living in extreme poverty in the world — from 56 percent in 1990 to 12.5 percent in 2010.

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Singapore, in particular, engineered a transformation from an underdeveloped country with a high degree of poverty to a highly prosperous and resilient country, largely thanks to smart and inclusive urban planning, according to the World Bank.  

A recent report by the Brookings Institution came to a similar conclusion: investing in girls education is the best way to combat climate change.

Both reports seem to understand that adapting to climate change is a holistic endeavor.


Defend the Planet

The Slums of East Asia Are Most Prone to Climate Change, World Bank Warns

By Joe McCarthy