Urban Resilience
Urban Resilience


Generally, poverty is perceived as a rural phenomenon. However, recent studies have shown that poverty in the urban areas is increasing faster than in the rural areas. Whilst the rural resilience programming has enhanced the rural communities’ resilience capacities, there is a need to also focus attention on urban resilience given the magnitude of the shocks and hazards in urban areas. Zimbabwe has been experiencing economic challenges which include a high unemployment rate of more than 90 percent, cash liquidity challenges and declining livelihood options. Unlike the rural population, the urban population relies on formal and non-formal employment for their livelihoods as agriculture is not a sustainable source of livelihoods in urban areas.  About 1.5 million people (2018) were estimated to be food insecure representing 37 percent of the urban population. Nationally, the majority of households (65 percent) in urban areas experience a shock/stressor.

Some urban poor cannot afford access to electricity and heavily rely on fossil fuels such as wood as their main source of fuel/energy. The infrastructure deficits may further be worsened as result of the environmental challenges in most of the urban areas such as pollution, poor waste management, deforestation and biodiversity loss. Urban areas in the country are also affected by extreme climate like droughts and floods.  Prevalence of urban food insecurity rose from 31% in 2016 to 37% in 2018. Under-investment in infrastructure maintenance also contributes to the poor living conditions of urban residents, characterized by significant infrastructure deficits for basic services. Environment-related health risks, including cholera and typhoid, are very high, as is evident from regular and recent outbreaks, particularly in the larger urban areas amongst the most vulnerable and under-served. These challenges are exacerbated by climate change. Climate change impacts also result in greater rural-to-urban migration, or urbanization, with the rate of growth increasing faster than what city governments have the capacity to absorb, overwhelming waste water and sewerage systems. Extreme poverty is concentrated in high density urban areas, and the government often struggles to accommodate the rising population in cities. Migrant populations are congregating in illegal settlements which are more vulnerable to climate change.

Towards a Solution

In response to the above UNDP has initiated Urban Resilience Programme to generate evidence for building urban resilience in Zimbabwe. The objective of this programme is to develop urban resilience model in selected local authorities as well as generating evidence and knowledge to strengthen the urban resilience in the country. The programme adopts one of the approaches to address youth unemployment and well as livelihoods of the most vulnerable groups, which is linking provision of basic social services (including WASH) with generation of employment opportunities by providing better access to WASH services, developing enterprise opportunities, while at the same time generating jobs in the sector of WASH infrastructure development.

The overall goal of the programme is to improve economic recovery and access to the provision of basic social services of unemployed youths, women, and vulnerable groups in urban areas of Zimbabwe. The programme approach recognizes the synergistic relationship between a WASH, LED and Basic Social Services Sectors. The programme focuses on two interrelated components:

  1. Basic social services and community infrastructure;
  2. Green jobs and social bonds, aiming at employment for the youth that focuses on green technologies to help solve some of the key constraints facing urban populations.

Preliminary consultations led to the formulation of a Preparatory Support Document following the approval of the initiative by the Local Project Appraisal Committee (LPAC) at meeting in November 2018. An LPAC meeting was attended by UN Agencies, Government, Private Sector, Civil Society and Donors who welcomed and approved the new initiative, given the high levels of urban food insecurity and new outbreaks of Cholera and Typhoid in the targeted areas. Overall the programme would build on previous lessons learned coupled with a strong evidence and knowledge-based component, strong partnerships and a modest resource envelop to leverage other past and future investments. A preparatory support document has been prepared covering the pilot phase that will contribute to the crafting of the medium- and long-term urban resilience programme. A joint field visit comprising UNICEF, UNDP, and the Ministry representatives was conducted to Gwanda Municipality on 5-7 December 2018 to engage the Local Authority (LA) and identify the needs of the local communities. Consultations in relation to basic social services, employment creation, and private sector partnership were held with Gwanda Municipality and stakeholders to identify areas of collaboration. A field visit resulted in the Gwanda Town Council passing a Resolution in support of the urban resilience programme, paving the way for the implementation of the planned actions.

The programme is very much oriented towards South-South and Triangular cooperation. Achieving desired outcomes and maximizing the results would be impossible without learning from other countries’ experiences on urban resilience building initiatives and creating new partnerships that will enrich the implementation of the programme. At the moment, the programme is in pilot phase and is only beginning to establish necessary links and partnerships. For example, as one of the aspects of South-South cooperation, the project is studying the successful experience of South Africa and Tunisia in the establishment of entrepreneurship building centres for youth in cooperation with private sector (HP Life Foundation) and the UN agencies.

Contact Information

Name: Georges Van Montfort Title: UNDP Zimbabwe

Supported by

UNDP Country Investment Facility

Countries involved

South Africa, Tunisia, Zimbabwe

Implementing Entities

UNDP Zimbabwe; Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing; Selected local authorities; Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Enterprise Development; Ministry of Women Affairs; Ministry of Youth and Sports; Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate.

Project Status

On going

Primary SDG

11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities

Secondary SDGs

11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
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