A group of 31 people including youths from Kenya, Tanzania and Ghana recently climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa highest peak, as part of a youth upliftment drive backed by UN-HABITAT.
In its fourth year, the annual Mount Kilimanjaro climb is the brainchild of Mr. Tim Challen, a staffer with the UN Federal Credit Union (UNFCU) but who is passionate about uplifting the living standards of youths living in the disadvantaged slums of African cities. UN-HABITAT and the Executive Director Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka in particular, have been greatly involved in the annual event.
The climb was organized by the Kilimanjaro Initiative NGO with the support of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Federal Credit Union (UNFCU), the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) and the UN Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) - as well as civil society organizations.
While this was not a scientific expedition, the climbers were able to observe environmental change along the way. The expedition’s 79-year-old chief guide Emanuel Menjah, who has summited the mountain more than 3,000 times since 1947, pointed out that the glaciers at the peak have receded by several kilometres since his youth.
The Kilimanjaro Initiative recently gained NGO status and has opened offices in Nairobi, Kenya. This has allowed them to extend their outreach activities beyond the annual hike. In a recent project, the Initiative worked with local youth and residents in Nairobi’s Kibera slum to clean-up a soccer field. Once a hotspot for crime and other illegal activities, the field is now a safe haven for the community.
During this year’s event, fourteen of the 31 climbers reached the peak after a grueling five day trek to raise awareness on climate change as part of the UNite to Combat Climate Change campaign. Some of the perilous situations the team had to contend with included snow storms, oxygen deprivation, and -25 degree temperatures.
An entry in Tim’s diary says: Day 3: We slowly hike up from the open moorland to the alpine desert. We are above the clouds now and have difficulty getting enough oxygen into our lungs. We reach Kibo hut by 4:00 PM and try to rest before our final ascent scheduled to take place at midnight. Some of the climbers have already succumbed to altitude sickness and started to descend. The rest of us try to sleep, but it is difficult to breathe at 4750 meters. A storm rages outside, snow and hail, with thunder and lightning. At 10:00 PM we think we may have to call the climb off, but at 11:00 PM the mountain presents us with clear starry skies.”
The Kilimanjaro Initiative will hold another hike next year – the dates have yet to be determined.