As the 8th International Conference on Urban Health draws to a close, delegates are reminded of the commitment they have made in the Nairobi Statement on Urbanization and Health.
The first of its kind to be held in Africa the conference did draw from the challenges that urbanization brings to countries in the south. Making the statement the delegates acknowledged the fact that urbanization is a reality facing all countries and that between now and 2050, 3 billion people will settle primarily in cities a fact that needs planning and action now.
When the conference began, delegates took a tour of some of the slums that are in Nairobi and witnessed for themselves the fact that majority of urban residents are living in informal settlements where they lack proper housing, water, sanitation, garbage disposal, security, schooling and health services.
The statement adds that if well managed, cities can be engines of development for national economies and centers of positive sociopolitical transformation. The conference has also noted that countries that fail to plan for increasing urbanization place themselves and their citizens’ health, economic, and security risk. Countries that fail to plan for increasing urbanization place themselves and their citizens at serious health, economic and security risk.
The health of slum dwellers is typically well below that in other urban and rural areas, even when stratified by poverty level. These inequities are also observed in other critical development indicators like schooling and affect the health of the entire city.
Settlements without legal status and services can become focal points for social tensions, conflict and illicit economic activity as was witnessed in Kenya during the post election violence.
Owing to the above challenges the participants especially the urban champions who are mainly drawn from local governments committed themselves to give effective, transparent, accountable and proactive governance that is broadly inclusive as a critical factor in the growth of healthy cities.
The first day of the conference demonstrated what this particular commitment was all about. For the first time, communities spoke of solutions for issues like, water and sanitation; waste management; security, health services among others. Residents of Kibera, Korogocho,Viwandani and Mathare (some of the informal settlements from Kenya’s capital, Nairobi) showcased projects that offer solutions to the ever challenging problems of urbanization like; health insurance, HIV/AIDs, Sustainable Livelihoods, Security and Peace initiatives, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, Disabilities and Alcohol and Drug Abuse.
The conference closes with acknowledging that solutions to urbanization should be developed within a framework that is intersectoral where governments work effectively in partnership with the public, organizations of civil society and the business community.
To echo Kenya’s Assistant Minister for Nairobi Metropolitan Mrs Elizabeth Ongoro, ‘governments need to create people-centred solutions’. This means that donor agencies and governments must include urban concerns in their strategies as adapted to country circumstances. A point that was emphasized by Darren Walker, the Vice President of the Rockefeller Foundation Initiative. “We need to bridge policy and practice as well as find out how we can break from the old ways of thinking to be able to move away from the grave challenges of infrastructure and housing.”
Interventions and programs to improve the functioning of urban areas and cities should be designed with equity consciousness to ensure that the most vulnerable urban dwellers have input to and benefit from the programs.
As the meeting closes what is urgent is the development of effective strategies that create incentives to health to address the challenges of slum settlements to ensure they are places where human needs are met , and people can live decent lives.
Day two round up – http://www.icuh2009.org
Mayors and local government leaders met on day two of the conference at the urban champions forum looking at the best practices within cities that can make a difference in urban health.
Four council leaders from different countries in Africa have expressed their satisfaction that despite various challenges, there is evidence of development as far as housing and primary healthcare for slum dwellers is concerned.
During a group discussion at the 8th International Conference on Urban Health in Nairobi, council leaders from the City of Johannesburg in South Africa, the City of Banjul in Gambia, City of Windhoek in Namibia, and the City of Abuja in Nigeria articulated some development aspects in their various towns, despite the myriad challenges.
“We are in the process of formalising all our towns in South Africa,” said Bengeza Mthombeni, a Member of the Mayoral Committee, responsible for health in Johannesburg said.
“By this, I mean that we are in the process of eradicating all the informal settlements in South Africa, in a project projected to be through by the year 2014,” he said.
Mthombeni has responsibilities to ensure that a world class primary health services are delivered all over Johannesburg, and overseeing a service which has won a number of prizes in the health sector.
He said that South Africa has ensured that all the slum dwellers have access to primary healthcare free of charge, and that there are mobile clinics provided by the government specifically to serve informal settlements.
“We are in the process of numbering all the streets within all the informal settlements. This will make it easy for one to describe where he or she is when calling for services such as ambulance in case of emergency, fire brigade among others,” said Mthombeni.
In Gambia, His Worship Mayor Samba Faal of the Banjul City said that the government has taken charge of the city, and is buying idle properties left in dilapidated conditions by the city residents, to manage them, and return to the rightful owners when they need them.
“Our economy is dependent on tourism, which includes travelling out and into the country, due to our country’s proximity to the western countries. Several residents find it easy to travel abroad and live there for several years, leaving their properties at home without proper management,” said Mayor Faal.
He added, “The government is now managing the sewage system and solid waste disposal, in a project aimed at reducing diseases that would arise from such.”
So far, the Gambian president Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh has made a commitment to fix the city drainage system that has been ineffective for several years.
However, the most impressive step to development can be witnessed in the City of Windhoek in Namibia. This is one of the rarest places in Africa where the government has developed a water banking system.
“We save up to 90 per cent of all the rain water. And after it is treated, it becomes very handy for the city dwellers as they pump it up for domestic and industrial use,” said His Warship Mayor Matheus Shikongo of the Windhoek City.
He added, “Waste management is excellent. From the airport, to the doorsteps even within the informal settlements, you cannot see a piece of paper.”
He disclosed that the country leadership has made city dwellers believe that the country belongs to them. “We do not force anybody to conserve the environment. Everyone understands that it is their responsibility to do so,” he said.
And according to Bernard Mbogoh, a Public Health Officer in the ministry of Public Health and Sanitation in Kenya, the country has implemented several projects to better housing and ensure availability of primary healthcare especially for the low income earners.
“The government provides funding to every constituency, known as the Constituency Development Fund (CDF). Through this, communities identify projects of their priority, of which they are later funded to implement,” said Mbogoh.
Through CDF, communities especially within informal settlement areas have been able to put up health centres, school laboratories, toilets among several other projects that they feel are positive for them.
“We also have an initiative to clean the Nairobi River, which has been in a sorrow state for decades. And this is definitely a positive step towards the city development,” Added Mbogoh.
So far, the government of Kenya is in the process of constructing decent houses for slum dwellers, in an effort to formalise the city.
However, all the council leaders identified a few challenges which are common in nearly all the African countries. They included rural urban migration, leading to the upsurge in population pressure within urban areas, provision of affordable primary healthcare to the poor, waste management, decent housing among others.
Delegates will take a break on day two 20th October which is Kenyatta Day and resume on Wednesday 21st with the scientific part of the conference.
The 8th International Conference on Urban Health in Nairobi, Kenya, Oct. 18-23, 2009
Conference website – http://www.icuh2009.org
Day One’s Round up, Oct. 19, 2009
The 8th International Conference on Urban Health kicked off today in Nairobi, Kenya, hearing first hand from the community that has been affected by rapid growth of cities- those that live in Informal settlements.
Unlike other previous conferences on Urban Health the Nairobi one focuses more on the challenges that urbanization posses to the health of residents in Africa and Asia. For the first time, communities spoke of solutions for issues like, water and sanitation; waste management; security, health services among others.
Speaking at the Community Voices Forum, Hon Elizabeth Ongoro, Assistant Minister, Nairobi Metropolitan Development was quick to note that the discussions could not have come at a better time than this ‘since her ministry needs the solutions to achieve Kenya’s vision 2030. “As the government seeks to listen to the voices of the people, this forum is very welcome so that we can continue implementing people-centred solutions”
The day saw residents of Kibera, Korogocho Viwandani and Mathare ( some of the informal settlements from Kenya’s capital, Nairobi) showcase projects that offer solutions to the ever challenging problems of urbanization like; health insurance, HIV/AIDs, Sustainable Livelihoods, Security and Peace initiatives, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, Disabilities and Alcohol and Drug Abuse.
Earlier in the day journalists went through a briefing that highlighted why the meeting was held in Africa for the first time as well as the unique challenges that Africa and Asia face by virtue of having fast growing cities.
The ICUH president Dr. Jean-Christophe Fotso, the ISUH founding president David Vlahov together with David Kinyua the communications and advocacy officer of the National Coordinating Agency on Population and Development were on hand to explain the different themes that the conference will be addressing.
The African continent is urbanizing very fast and at a time when local economies are not performing well, the result is that many Africans moving to urban areas are unable to find employment and they end up living in deplorable conditions in slums, where they don’t enjoy the services that an urban setting is supposed to provide. Day one did provide the beginning of a discussion by hearing from the community and Day two- Monday 19th’s session will be hearing the voices of representatives of local governments from 40 different cities around the world on how they are handling the challenges of their growing cities.
Dubbed as the Urban Health Champions is an entry point to an engagement with policy makers and forging of partnerships that will help make the Nairobi Urban Health Statement at the end of the week.
URBAN HEALTH IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES: A MAJOR NEGLECTED AREA
Saturday, November 7 th, 2009, Philadelphia Convention Center Room 110B
Philadelphia, 8:30 am to 5:00 pm
Workshop Leader: Diana Silimperi
Urban health in developing countries is a major neglected area of public health. In the near future, more than half of the world’s population will live in urban areas with most of this population living in underserved neglected urban slums in developing countries. With the leadership of Diana Silimperi we aim to define the current status of urban health in developing countries, discuss what tools are currently used, and distinguish the particular needs of urban versus rural CBPHC. Using participant contributions we aim to grapple with the problem issues encountered in public health in this urban setting and what solutions are needed to address these problems.
Dr. Diana R. Silimperi is the Vice President of the Center for Health Services at Management Sciences for Health. She is a public health pediatrician and epidemiologist with 25 years of experience implementing primary health care in Africa, Asia, and Latin America for WHO, UNICEF and diverse bilateral donors. She was the Director of the Urban Volunteer Program in Bangladesh in the late 1980s, and spearheaded primary health care in the urban slums of Lagos. She is one of the founding members of the International Society for Urban Health (ISUH) and will be a keynote speaker at the Conference in Kenya this October.
Diana will be aided by a team of experienced international health facilitators. Activities will be facilitated to allow the maximum networking and discussion between participants. CBPHC is now an area with increasing prospects for young professionals. Those interested in international CBPHC are also invited to attend our business meeting on Tuesday 10th November at 5.00 pm at the Philadelphia Convention center. Young professionals are especially encouraged to attend.
To register contact: Sandy Hoar (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )
Registration including morning coffee $25 (students $20 payable at the door) To facilitate planning please register ASAP but certainly by October 24th and indicate if you will be joining us for dinner afterwards. For further information contact: Sandy Hoar or Paul Freeman (email: email@example.com) Chairman CBPHC-WG International Health Section.
The aim of the Penn-ICOWHI 18th Congress, Cities and Women’s Health: Global Perspectives, is to deconstruct urban planning in terms of its potential to better support women’s health. When structuring an urban environment conducive to promoting and preserving women’s health, we must give up the assumption that the needs of women are the same as for men in order to understand the health needs of women in cities. In fact, there are remarkable opportunities to have profound impact on meeting the unique needs of urban women by bringing together professionals from all facets of health care, health policy and urban design, among others, to open interdisciplinary discussions about their work.
Penn-ICOWHI 18th International Congress on Women’s Health
Wednesday, April 7- Saturday, April 10, 2010
UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA, PHILADELPHIA, PA, USA
Program information, abstract specifics and submission guidelines are available via the ICOWHI website – http://www.icowhi.org.
The 7th International Conference on Urban Health: Knowledge Integration- Successful Interventions in Urban Health will be held in Vancouver, Canada from Oct. 29-31, 2008.
Highlights at this year’s conference include:
- Five pre-conference workshops offering overviews and in-depth knowledge and exchange opportunities on this year’s conference theme and tracks
- Two pre-conference tours to explore the urban agriculture movement and health service delivery to complex patients in Vancouver
- Seven highly renowned, international plenary speakers
- 180 peer-reviewed oral abstract presentations addressing the conference tracks
- Twelve concurrent workshops and panel sessions
- Four poster presentation sessions
Numerous networking opportunities and social events including the Welcome Reception