I have been struggling to keep warm lately as temperatures continue to drop to as low as 2 degrees Celsius, winter is knocking, hey! Light rains and wind characterize a typical day; I was almost blown away the other day, maybe some of you understand why.
As this struggle sound unique to an individual who has access to decent housing, food, water and other services, there is a growing population, young and old, who have to endure the cold, the rains, the winds, stay hungry, get thirsty and eventually die in the same streets that developed nations take pride in.
According to a recent article by The Guardian, street cleaners in Manchester City found one man unresponsive in a doorway on a Saturday and less than 24 hours later, a 60-year-old man was found a short walk away. Police declared the two deaths un-suspicious as the two were recognized by homeless charities.
On a separate note, investigations by the bureau for investigative journalism revealed that at least 440 people died on Britain’s streets or in temporary accommodation in the past year. The non-existence of official organization that counts the deaths of homeless people leaves a room for speculation for more.
Before former US president, Barrack Obama, visited Nairobi in 2016, street families were chased away from the city centre and distributed across rescue centres and children homes within Nairobi and its outskirts. This “Clean Up” by the city management gave global visitors the view that any nation’s leadership in the world would want to portray at any given point. As soon as the visitors left, the city went to default settings.
Having stayed in Cape Town for a while, the situation is not different. It is possible for someone to tap you from the back asking you for bread or something warm to drink. The number of times I was called “My Brother” was countless! It is true, they saw a brother but how many Rands were enough to solve the challenge?
It is projected that by the year 2050, seventy percent of the world population will be living in urban areas. This presents a myriad of opportunities for people and leaders to resolve to address inequalities in cities and towns across the world as early as now.
The future of cities like London has been described as that of spiraling inequality with inadequate affordable housing and characterized by a speculative market ruled by greedy developers and investors.
Some development states like Ethiopia seem to be getting it right on provision of affordable housing to low-income populations in its capital city, Addis Ababa, despite the pressing civic and political challenges in the past decade.
In the case of Manchester, out of the 500 officially recognized homeless people, over 100 have been moved into homes offered by housing associations and private property owners through a 3-year-project that started in December 2017.
As President Kenyatta and his administration firms up the affordable housing scheme in Kenya, he needs to recognize that his current strategy will only be beneficial to those who have access to financial resources and a certain level of income security. There is a high population that honestly deserve such homes if humanity lens is to come into play.
No amount of social cleansing in cities will sustain-ably solve the growing challenge in cities globally, its imperative to know that our actions today will have an effect in the future. We have a choice to pick the effects we want.
As local and world leaders gather every now and then to discuss development issues, let them know there is a greater obligation in the 21st century, a responsibility to make sure every human life counts.