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Urban Resilience

Thursday, 28 February 2019 16:48 Written by 
  • Location(s): Zimbabwe
  • Type(s): Solution
  • Theme(s): Social Services, Urban Development
  • SDG(s): 10. Reduced Inequalities, 11. Sustainable cities and communities
  • Types of ComSec Solutions: Solution
  • Locations of WGEO Solutions: Zimbabwe
  • Type of WGEO Solution: Solution
  • Themes of WGEO Solutions: Social Services, Urban Development
  • SDG(s) in WGEO Solutions: 10. Reduced Inequalities, 11. Sustainable cities and communities


The objective of the programme is to improve urban resilience to promote economic recovery, the basic social services delivery for the poor and vulnerable urban population in Zimbabwe.


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%, cash liquidity challenges and eroded 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.  As a result of the ongoing cash liquidity problems, closing of industry, low foreign investment and low salaries, most households in most cities are highly vulnerable and poor with very limited access to basic social services including safe drinking water and sanitation facilities. About 1.5 million people (2018) were estimated to be food insecure representing 37% of the urban population. Nationally, the majority of households (65%) in urban areas experience a shock/stressor .  Zimbabwe has the second largest informal sector in the world (2018), accounting for more than 94% of the country’s employment. The Petty Trade resulting from the informal economy is one of the important sources of income 11% (2018).

Some of the 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, characterised by significant infrastructure deficits for basic services: water and sanitation (WASH), waste management, transport, health services, and electricity. 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 urbanisation, 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. Migrant women are particularly vulnerable, who may live in make-shift houses in unplanned settlements with inadequate water access and poor sanitation. Inappropriate crop production in wetlands around cities has also affected water supply. Loss of wetlands in Harare, for example, has depleted the water table from 12 meters to 30 meters below ground level. There is therefore a need to commit to more sustainable solutions for the WASH and related social services to withstand the shocks and stresses.


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 on the 1 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 also expected to expansion of it to other countries that could be scaled up under South South Cooperation facilities.

Provider Country: UNDP Zimbabwe

Beneficiary Country: Zimbabwe

Supported By: UNDP Country Investment Facility

Implementing Agency: 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

Project Period: 2018-2019

Contact Person: Georges Van Montfort, UNDP Zimbabwe, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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