NAIROBI, KENYA – Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, the Honourable Ahmed Hussen, joined the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, to express the need for more adequate services in informal settlements after visiting Mlango Kubwa, Mathare, one of the largest informal settlements in Kenya on Thursday, December 21, 2017. The purpose of the visit was to learn more about United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) work in informal settlements and to highlight the important connection between migration and urban development.
Mathare has 500,000 residents. Within the settlement, the Mlango Kubwa ward has approximately 50,000 residents. Among them, 70% are aged 24 and under.
Hosted by Dr. Aisa Kacyira, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlement Programme UN-Habitat, the day started with a visit to the community-based organization, the Mathare Environmental Conservation One Stop Youth Centre (MECOSYC). The MECOSYC serves as community hub offering services such as vocational training, information and communications technology access, computer and internet training, HIV/AIDS education and entrepreneurship training.
“We founded this centre with support and assistance from UN-Habitat. Today, we serve meals to more than 300 homeless people in the neighborhood every weekend out of our community kitchen,” said Isaac Mutisya Mukasa, known locally as Kaka.
Kaka is a resident and a community leader in Mathare. His nickname means “brother” in Swahili—a name he thinks fits him well, as he considers himself a brother to many people in his community. Kaka’s efforts have been crucial to the developing public spaces for youth in Mlango Kubwa. Isaac is currently the youth centre’s chairperson.
After the tour of MECOSYC, Minister Hussen, Youth Envoy Jayathma Wickramanayake and UN-Habitat Deputy Executive Director, Dr. Aisa Kacyira, played a friendly soccer match against MECOSYC girls’ team. “The youth centre and soccer field have had a significant impact on the community both in terms in safety and in creating opportunities for young people,” said Dr. Kacyira.
Shortly after the visit to Mathare, Minister Hussen, Youth Envoy Jayathma Wickramanayake and Deputy Executive Director Dr. Aisa Kacyira reconvened for a town hall discussion with UN-Habitat staff and NGOs working in Africa to harness the potential of migrants and refugees.
“We need to change the negative narratives associated with migration and refugees, and focus on the positive contributions they make,” said Minister Hussen. “Refugees and migrants are not monolithic. Some refugees migrate with resources, while others are more vulnerable. They tend to move into the margins of the cities they move into and become vulnerable to violence, unemployment and exploitation. They often have no documentation.”
Dr. Aisa underscored the important connection between migration and urban development. “People who are displaced as a result of civil war, conflict, climate change and political unrest are increasingly seeking refuge in urban areas. Half of the world’s 38 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and more than half of the world’s 19.5 million refugees live in towns and cities. This poses a unique challenge for cities. It also offers an opportunity to work differently and to ensure that crisis response provides immediate humanitarian relief, while also strengthening urban resilience.”
Finally, Dr. Aisa highlighted UN-Habitat’s work in the area of migration with a particular focus on housing and access to services for refugees in Kakuma, Northern Kenya, Dr. Aisa also discussed UN-Habitat’s close cooperation with UNHCR and innovative work in Kalobeyei on planning for durable solutions in close cooperation with refugee host countries like Kenya.
Mutisya Emmanuel NGUI, Communications, Story Telling and Media Expert
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