Urban Vulnerability to Poverty: Asmara’s Poor in Perspective

As the number of urban residents in Eritrea rises, it is very likely to lead to an increase in the number of urban poor and vulnerable population thereby posing great challenges to urban planning and development. Poverty is generally associated with the deprivation of health, education, food, knowledge and many other things that make the difference between truly living and merely surviving. There is another universal aspect of poverty: vulnerability. Vulnerability has been defined as “the exposure to contingencies and stress, and difficulty coping with them”. The present study attempts to shed light on the myriad forms of urban poverty in Asmara. Based on interviews, observations, and content analysis the study sought to find out the biggest problems and risks faced by the urban poor (perception of the risks), how individuals deal with the identified problems (coping strategy-what is actually done by the poor in face of the specific problems), possible solutions and existing modes of self-help and mutual support.

The methodology applied in this study revealed four intertwined forms of vulnerability in Asmara: vulnerability to income failure, food insecurity, deteriorating health and social disintegration. A key finding of the study is that the widely used term “Vulnerable group” is not a concise category, because there are differences within all the groups studied. Vulnerabilities tend to be aspatial, i.e., not only confined to Asmara and affect different social groups in other cities of the country. However, inside certain groups, differences do exist and it is not the social groups per se that is vulnerable but certain individual and households belonging to these groups.

The study has also proposed some recommendations regarding what the policy makers need to implement in order to ensure income generation opportunities; provision of balanced food assistance options and nutrition awareness; and development of credit cycle schemes.

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