Infrastructure to serve the MDGs

Infrastructure to serve the MDGs

How can we help the poor gain increased access to basic infrastructure services?


  • From 1990 to 2006, 1.1 billion people in the developing world gained access to toilets, latrines and other forms of improved sanitation. An additional 1.4 billion people will require such facilities if the 2015 target is to be met (MDG Report 2009)
  • Urban populations are increasing much more quickly than rural populations. This is partly due to the migration of the rural poor for marginal economic benefit but leads to a disproportionate increase in poverty concentrated in urban areas (World Bank Paper)
  • Surveys of low-income housing and squatter populations indicate that these communities have the resources and the desire to pay for basic services if the government provided them; and in fact already pay high charges for some alternatives to these services – e.g. water vendors can charge 1000% of the cost of municipal water supply (World Bank Paper)
  • Locally managed, sustainable and decentralised services offer low income communities the best hope of satisfying their need for affordable water, sanitation, housing and energy

"Because infrastructure services have a direct impact on quality of life, investing in infrastructure is one of the foundations on which economic and social life is built."

(Edith Quintrell, The World Bank Group)



MDG Report (2009)

East Asia and Pacific Urban Business Directions; World Bank Working Paper; Report No 32533

Deliver better service access through a pragmatic, integrated programme, working with the community

Ways to reach the urban poor

  • Analyse the barriers to access basic services and adopt programs that work at scale for maximum impact
  • Prepare a financial model for the entire long-term program
  • Build alliances that involve the municipality, utility companies, the private sector, civic groups, affected communities and non-governmental organisations
  • Take a pragmatic approach to land tenure
  • Target credit programmes to address market failures that can exclude the poor from credit access
  • Use the program to promote skills development and income opportunities for residents

[For next steps, see Parikh, P (2009) Engineering as a tool for improving human habitat, Int. J. Management and Decision Making, Vol. 10, No. 3/4, pp 270-281]

Note:The success of measures intended to expand access to infrastructure services by the poorest depends on how well it is adapted to the particular implementation environment

Penelope Brook and Warrick Smith (2001)

Further Reading

Slum networking in Ahmedabad: The Sanjay Najar Pilot Project

Practical Action Project Case Studies