From Asia to Africa and even in the United States, informal settlements—often called slums or shantytowns—house the urban poor. With no building codes governing the construction of homes inside these areas, the use of open flames for heating and cooking, and high rates of drinking and smoking, fire is an ever-present threat.
The problem is poised to only get worse. Right now, an estimated 1 billion people live in informal settlements worldwide. By 2050, that number could swell to 2 or 3 billion. How can we keep these people safe from fire? More research and education on the fire problem in informal settlements is a good place to start, experts from the World Bank Group told me in October.