Saturday, November 27, 2010

Urban Sprawl, M-Pesa, A Life-Saving Vaccine, and More!

I apologize for the delay in this latest blog. So much is always happening in Kenya and beyond, so here’s a list of interesting links.

Earlier this week UN-Habitat released its report "State of African Cities 2010," and once again sounded the alarm regarding the rapid growth of the continent’s urban areas. In particular, the population of Nairobi is projected to grow nearly 50 percent over the coming decade. Will the newly urbanized Africa be comprised of "oceans of poverty [and] islands of wealth," as the UN warns?

"Hidden Cities – Unmasking and Overcoming Health Inequities in Urban Settings," another newly released report by UN-Habitat and WHO, outlines the "feminization" of poverty in cities and urban areas. For example, women living in cities are nearly twice as likely to contract HIV than rural women are, and women in densely populated areas have a 1.5 times higher rate of HIV than men. Read the report here, and take their mini-quiz about Urbanization and Health—I know that I learned a lot!

While I’ve previously paid tribute to Kenyan matatus, there is no doubt that they are often poorly driven and maintained. Road accidents in Africa and the developing world as a whole are at unacceptably high levels, but inconsistent efforts and lack of prioritization by national governments have hampered efforts to reduce the death toll. A BBC reporter visited some of the most dangerous roads in Kenya to learn more in this radio documentary.

Also earlier this week, the world was stunned by Pope Benedict’s statement that the use of condoms is acceptable in certain circumstances. Africa is home to more than 150 million Catholics, and is also the center of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Read more about reactions on the continent to the Pope’s momentous declaration here.

In a previous blog, I linked to a photo gallery of daily life in Dadaab, northern Kenya, in the world’s largest refugee camp. While the refugee camp has become a familiar concept to many Westerners, more than half of the world’s refugees currently live in urban areas, such as Nairobi. This blog post by the Women’s Refugee Commission spotlights the ingenuity needed by female refugees in the Nairobi slums to make ends meet, in the face of possible exploitation, abuse, and arrest.

Since 2007, Kenya has been a global leader in mobile phone-based banking. Why is “M-Pesa” such a resounding success in Kenya, and why is the so-called developed world so slow to catch on? Read more and watch a short video here:

A vaccine for meningitis, which kills thousands every year in Africa, will be offered in several countries, including Kenya, starting on Dec. 6. Learn more about why people are lining up for this life-saving jab here.

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