Academics at the University of Bristol have found a link between rural regeneration and urban poverty in Ethiopia. They claimed that improving water supplies in villages increased the population, forcing more young people to move to the city slums to find work.
Cities in Ethiopia, one of most rural countries in the world, are expected to double in size over the next 40 years to include 40 per cent of the population.
This explosion in urban living is a direct result of charity-funded projects, the study claims.
Infant mortality rates in the villages have fallen sharply. As their populations increase resources become strained. The local youths are forced to move to the cities in search of work.
An improvement in living standards feeds through into a rise in the population. Leading, in a generation or two, to a larger population but no rise in living standards.
To which there are two things to say.
Researchers, working in conjunction with Addis Ababa University, concluded that those aged 15 to 30 with access to taps were three times more likely to migrate to a larger city or town in search of work and food than those without ready access to water.
Dr Mhairi Gibson, from the University of Bristol’s Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, said: “The importance of the research lies in its identification of previously unforeseen consequences of international development.
“While improved access to water has reduced women’s workloads and improved child health, it has unexpectedly led to higher birth rates and larger family sizes which have increased household shortages.
“These population pressures have encouraged young adults to migrate to urban areas, which actually contributes rather than relieves population pressure.
That movement to the cities is part of the solution: urban living has been called the Great Contraceptive. The second is that, elsewhere when we’ve noted the same thing, it’s a one generation thing. The next generation note that all 9 children of the previous generation survived and go on to have fewer children themselves. Called, in part, the demographic transition.
Another way of putting this is that reducing the child mortality rate is the first essential step to gaining the long term solution, which is the lower birth rate.
And it would certainly be insane to suggest that we shouldn’t aid in clean water so that the babies die and the population doesn’t rise.