UN-HABITAT’s Executive Director, Mrs.Anna Tibaijuka, on Tuesday escorted the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, through a section of the crowded Kibera slum to give him his first taste of extreme urban poverty in Africa.
“I feel very much humbled by what I am seeing now. That makes me resolve again my firm commitment to work for the improvement of the living conditions, education, water, sanitation, housing – all these are the challenges which we must overcome,” Mr. Ban said outside the UN-HABITAT offices in Kiberia, as journalists and members of the public scrambled to hear him speak.
“This is not the only place, I know. There are many other billions of people suffering from lack of affordable housing – all the facilities which make our life decent,” he said. “We must work together and generate the political will to have a smooth implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and I will work very closely, and harder than before.”
The eight MDGs, which seek to slash a host of social ills from extreme poverty to improving maternal health all by 2015 were adopted by the UN Millennium Summit in 2000. Mrs. Tibaijuka briefed him in detail on Kibera, a place that is home to nearly 1 million people crammed into 220 hectares of muddy, unpaved land with shacks as far as the eye can see.
Mr. Ban arrived in Kenya from Ethiopia, where he had attended the African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa, and held bilateral meetings with African leaders on the sidelines of the main discussions.
He told reporters after the meetings that his presence in Addis in the first month of his tenure was “a strong sign of the growing partnership between the United Nations and the African Union” and of the high priority he attaches to Africa.
On Darfur, the Secretary-General said that he was pleased that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir had welcomed a joint AU-UN mission to Khartoum and Darfur in early February. But he added that he had urged President Bashir, and all parties, to cease hostilities, as an essential foundation for a successful peace process, and humanitarian access.
“No more time can be lost,” the Secretary-General said. “The people of Darfur have waited much too long. This is just unacceptable.”
On Wednesday, he was scheduled to hold further meetings with Mrs. Tibaijuka and other officials and address UN staff at the organization's Africa headquarters.