Song and dance took centre stage as top government officials, members of the diplomatic corps and ordinary people gathered at a sports ground in Kisumu, western Kenya to mark World Habitat Day.
World Habitat Day Procession to Jomo Kenyatta grounds in Kisumu © UN-HABITAT
Speakers at the celebrations highlighted the challenges posed by climate change adding that concerted efforts were needed to face the issue head on.
Kenya's minister for housing Soita Shitanda said his ministry had embarked on a campaign to ensure that building materials being used in the country were environmentally safe. "So far we have 50 centres that are used to ensure that the building materials are environmentally friendly," he said.
In a message read on his behalf by the Acting Director of UN-HABITAT's Regional & Technical Cooperation Division, Mr. Alioune Badiane, the UN Secretary General said the challenge the world was facing was how to handle the competing pressures of growing population growth, urbanization and climate change.
"Rising sea levels area major impact of climate change- and an urgent concern. Sixty million people now live within one metre of sea level. By the end of the century that number will jump to 130 million," he said.
In a speech read on his behalf, UN-HABITAT Executive Director Dr. Joan Clos said that the greatest repercussions of climate disasters both begin and end in cities.
The Housing Assistant Minister Bishop Margaret Wanjiru led the audience in observing a minute's silence in honor of the late environmentalist and Nobel Laureate Prof. Wangari Maathai.
The assistant minister said the late Maathai would have been proud to be associated with this year's World Habitat Day whose theme is Cities and Climate change.
"Although she is no longer with us, it is our prayers that we will see more Wangari Maathais who will step forwad and fight for the environment," she said.
World Habitat Day 2011 procession to Jomo Kenyatta Grounds © UN-HABITAT
Meanwhile, in the capital, Nairobi, UN-HABITAT in collaboration with United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON) on Sunday hosted more than 120 youths from eight informal settlements for a series of sports activities culminating in a tree planting exercise aimed at mitigating climate change.
There was a game of football with team drawn from UN Staff members and diplomatic corps from China, Ukraine, Morocco, United States and the United Kingdom among others.
Over 1,000 trees were distributed to the various communities for planting in their school grounds. Additional trees were planted in memory of Wangari Maathai.
Elsie Nomai, who aspires to becoming a football coach said: "I am happy to be part of the World Habitat Day and I have learnt a lot about UN-HABITAT. I thank you for giving us a chance to engage with other youths in a sports event that allows us to avoid criminal activities."
Margrete Nyambura, a high school student and captain of "Old is Gold" ladies team said: "I have a talent for football and wish our community could be more sensitized on issues on sanitation, health and how they can better protect their environment." A child of a single parent and having been raised up in a slum, she said one of her greatest challenge like most youths was a lack of access to opportunities like education and health.
The tournament culminated in a trophy presentation to the winners Christian Sports Contact (CHRISC), an organization which uses sports to reach out to dynamic youths. Vapour Sports, another community group, came in second.