Poor African settlements make effects of climate change worse-study

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Poor African settlements make effects of climate change worse-study
Children pose for a photo session in Mathare slum one of Kenya's largest poor settlement. Researchers have found that the effects of climate change are worse in slums.

Adapted from the John Hopkins University


Crowded urban settlements in Africa make the effects of climate change worse, pushing temperatures to levels dangerous for children and the elderly a new study has found.

The study led by US based Johns Hopkins University scientist has revealed that climate change will hit people living in these “slum” settlements harder because their living conditions often create a warmer “micro-climate” due to home construction materials, lack of ventilation, sparse green space, and poor access to electrical power and other services.

“Our work shows that the health impacts of urbanization and climate change may be hidden from view, particularly in low-income settings,” said climate scientist Anna Scott, the lead author, who is working toward her doctorate in earth and planetary sciences at Johns Hopkins.

Read:Upgrade slums, expand rentals to ease urban housing crisis: researchers

“We need more monitoring and data to make sure we can protect everyone’s health in a warming world.”

The study, published online by PLOS ONE, focuses on three settlements in Nairobi, Kenya. The largest of them is Kibera, a neighborhood of narrow alleyways and homes with mud walls and iron sheet roofs and concrete slab floors that is home to as many as a million people.

It’s the largest of these neighborhoods in Africa, often called “informal settlements.”

Conducted by seven institutions including three Red Cross organizations, the study shows the need for more targeted heat alerts and assistance.

High temperatures in Kibera and two other nearby neighborhoods are shown in the study to be between 5 and nearly 10 degrees Fahrenheit higher than those reported at Nairobi’s official weather station less than half a mile away.


“Our work shows that the health impacts of urbanization and climate change may be hidden from view, particularly in low-income settings.”

-climate scientist Anna Scott.


Roughly a third to 60 percent of the 3.1 million people who live in Nairobi, the largest city and capital of the East African country, make their homes in settlements such as Kibera, Mukuru, and Mathare, the areas studied for this report.

In Mathare, homes are commonly built with iron walls and roofs. Houses in Mukuru are a mix of some high-rise buildings and houses built of iron sheets. There are few paved streets, trees, or vegetation in any of these areas.