With a quarter of the world’s population living in urban slums, a sustainable response to improving the living conditions of the urban poor is becoming increasingly necessary, the United Nations agency tasked with promoting environmentally and socially sustainable cities and towns said today.
In a press release made available ahead of World Habitat Day, UN Habitat warned that urban poverty was not just a present problem affecting today’s metropolitan environments but “an ever-growing concern posing development and humanitarian threats to humankind.”
The theme of this year’s World Habitat Day, observed annually on the first Monday of October, is Voices from the Slums – an effort to highlight the hardships of slum living through the voices of the urban poor while also giving rise to their experiences and ideas about improving their living conditions.
The UN agency voiced hope that the upcoming observance would also contribute to a policy dialogue that focuses on the broad range of issues related to the integration of life in the slum into the city; identify policy formulation and capacity development issues in which the UN can offer significant contributions; and identify key stakeholders in slum upgrading and adequate housing and actively engaging them in further discussions.
Among these measures, the agency added, is the creation of the Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme (PSUP) which seeks to work with African, Caribbean and Pacific nations in helping them upgrade the living standards of the urban poor.
“A sustainable response to improving the living conditions of the urban poor can only be achieved through the concerted and coordinated efforts of all relevant urban stakeholders,” the UN Habitat press release declared.
“This is done by improving the capacity of relevant urban actors, from concerned authorities to slum dwellers themselves, to collectively asses their urban development needs, devise city-wide strategies to improve living conditions and to implement these solutions.”
In the sprawling Kenyan slum of Mtwapa, located some 500 kilometres from Nairobi in the African country’s coastal region, the PSUP initiative is already bearing concrete results as pilot activities are undertaken with the aim of benefitting over 20,000 people.
In a recent interview with UN Habitat, Caleb Omondi, a Mtwapa resident, expressed hope at the prospects of an upgrade in living conditions.
“When I heard about this project through our local village association I was delighted,” said Mr. Omondi. “We have very many problems in Mtwapa including blocked drainages, poor waste disposal and scarce job opportunities which bites the youth the most.”