It was pomp and glamour as dances, poem recitals and performance by a local television drama group took the centre stage during the World Habitat Day national celebrations held at Athi River, a satellite town near the Kenyan capital Nairobi.
Cabinet Ministers, their deputies, government officials, UN-HABITAT staff as well as members of the public turned up for national celebrations held outside the capital city.
Schools and women’s choir groups sang songs extolling the virtues of providing decent and affordable housing and sanitation for all. In a statement read on behalf of UN Secertary-General Kofi Annan, Mr. Daniel Biau, UN-HABITAT’s acting deputy Executive Director, cited recent research showing that by the year 2050, 6 billion people, or two-thirds of humanity, will be living in towns and cities around the world.
“If present trends continue, more than half of these people could be living in slums. On the other hand, the slums and pockets of poverty that exist even in rich countries are located in well-defined spaces where all the MDGs can be tackled together, where economies of scale can be realized, and where one intervention can have a multiplier effect,” Mr. Annan said.
“On World Habitat Day, I call on the international community and all cities around the world to increase their efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals, and in particular to the target of achieving a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020,” Mr. Annan said.
In his speech read on his behalf, Kenya’s Lands and Housing Minister Amos Kimunya said the Government will spend a Shillings 880 billion (more than USD 10 billion) to upgrade all slums and informal settlements in the country.
He said some 5.4 million people would benefit from the programme, to be implemented over 15 years. The project will be carried under the Kenya Slum Upgrading Programme. Mr. Kimunya said his ministry had prepared a scheme outlining how the programme would be implemented and financed, and the roles various stakeholders would play.
"The programme will be implemented in phases, with the first one covering selected slums in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Mavoko in Athi River, Nakuru, Thika, Ruiru, Rongai and Eldoret," said Mr. Kimunya.
Assistant minister for Housing, Betty Tett, said her ministry and the Ministry of Finance were in discussion on how the National Housing Corporation (NHC) could issue housing bonds. Ms. Tett said this would enable NHC to raise finances for funding its programme in the longer term.
Livestock and Fisheries Minister Joseph Munyao appealed to the many industries setting up shop in Athi River to adhere to international environmental standards. “We are soon reopening the Kenya Meat Commission which will slaughter cows for export. The export market could however be jeopardized if the environment is polluted,” he said.