Vulnerability to housing and the environment in urban settings: Implications for residents and places

  • Girma Taye
  • Sefonias Getachew
  • Muluken Gizaw
  • Mirgissa Kaba


Introduction: Across the globe, for a variety of socio-economic and health related reasons, people are choosing to reside in urban as opposed to rural areas. However, there is limited evidence on the profiles of people living in vulnerable sections of urban settings.

Objective: This paper aims to examine vulnerable sections and their residents in selected urban centers in Ethiopia in terms of access to selected facilities and services. More specifically, the study aims to develop profiles of vulnerable people in selected sections of urban centers.

Methods: A mixed study method was used to address the objectives of the study. The study was carried out in 46 urban centers of five regions (Amhara, Oromia, Tigray, Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ (SNNP) and Harari) and two city administrations (Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa) in Ethiopia. Among vulnerable sections identified in each urban center, one, two, or three sections were selected at random based on the status of the urban center (woreda, zone, or regional). Thus, a total of 115 vulnerable sections of urban centers were selected in the Cities/towns. Twenty participants were selected from each center and were interviewed using a questionnaire developed for the study. Key informants were identified, interviewed, and focus group discussions were conducted. Descriptive statistics, chi-square, and t-tests were used for analysis.

Results: The majority of those interviewed were female. The average age of respondents was 45.6 (SD=14.4) and 42.3 (SD=14.8) years for male and female, respectively. Sixty percent of respondents were married, while 17% were widowed. Vulnerable places are small in size and are haphazardly distributed over urban settings. Housing conditions in vulnerable sections were ranked ‘poor’ based on the materials used for roofing, flooring, and the construction of walls. While the majority of the roofs were reported to be iron sheets, there were few thatched roofs, mainly in the Amhara and Oromia regions. Plastic roofs were not common, although a few were reported in Harari and Dire Dawa. The majority of houses were found to have mud or sand floors, while 39% had concrete floors. The walls of houses were mainly from mud, mud brick and wattle covered with mud, and hand-made bricks. Iron sheets and masonry were used as walls of the houses in a few cases and ordinary stones were common in Tigray and occasionally in Dire Dawa. Some respondents reported cooking in the same room that they live in. The availability of latrines in these vulnerable sections was encouraging. However, the disposal of liquid and solid waste was found to be challenging.

Conclusions: There are sections in urban settings that are characterized by poor housing, poor sanitation and hygiene, and poor sewerage systems. These require targeted interventions. [Ethiop. J. Health Dev. 2020; 34(Special issue 2):24-32]

Keywords: Vulnerability, urban settings, housing condition, latrine, solid waste

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eISSN: 1021-6790