Home > Africa, Asia/Pacific, Kenya > Oct. 23 update from the International Conference on Urban Health, Nairobi

Oct. 23 update from the International Conference on Urban Health, Nairobi

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.

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  1. October 24, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Thank you for the update from the Nairobi conference. I wish I could have been present.

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