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How to Design Playgrounds for the World’s Most Vulnerable Kids

New UNICEF reports explore the ultimate design challenge: How to provide spaces to play and prosper for children living in urban poverty.
In an informal settlement outside Nairobi, neighborhood kids helped design a new playground.
In an informal settlement outside Nairobi, neighborhood kids helped design a new playground.Courtesy Kounkuey Design Initiative

It’s called the “urban advantage.”As the world has urbanized and the share of rural population has declined since at least 1950, many have touted this massive public-health success story: On average, city households earn higher incomes, enjoy better infrastructure, and live closer to essential services. So the kids who grow up there have better access to health care, education, and sanitation than their rural counterparts.

But those numbers are calculated from data that often excludes a city’s poorest residents. A significant percentage of children—comprising hundreds of millions of kids worldwide—don’t reap the rewards of life in the metropolis. Poverty—previously a mainly rural phenomenon—is becoming more and more prevalent in cities. And the kids growing up in urban poverty can be worse off than those in the countryside. This is what’s called the “urban paradox.”