Increasingly, natural disasters and complex emergencies are having devastating impacts on urban areas. More than half of the world's population now lives in urban areas. Nearly one billion urban residents live in precarious informal settlements and slums and are among the world's most vulnerable populations. Poorly planned, rapid urbanisation has increased the exposure and vulnerability of these populations to both natural disasters and complex emergencies. These catastrophes demonstrate the growing need for the international humanitarian community and governments to better adapt emergency response to the special requirements of urban areas. Better preparedness of local communities and governments and expanded partnerships with governments, communities and civil society will be required to reach the most vulnerable and affected populations in urban contexts.