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The shift from rural to urban living is associated with massive social change. This transformation is accelerating in many countries in Africa and South Asia and is projected to continue for at least the next three decades. For poor migrants, the attractions of access to wage labour and education are widely judged to be worth the increased congestion and loss of subsistence livelihoods. Growing populations bring major challenges for urban planning, particularly in low income urban neighbourhoods where basic demographic data is unreliable or not collected. This paper reports on a three-year study into migration to 13 such neighbourhoods in Colombo, Dhaka, Harare and Hargeisa. Despite the challenges of life in these neighbourhoods, they presented significant attractions, although new migrants and existing residents alike faced significant constraints to further mobility within the city. We consider the implications of these mobility issues for future planning in these neighbourhoods. We then consider available data on the impact of the current pandemic on life in these low-income urban neighbourhoods.