Weekly Urban News Update
February 28, 2020
In This Update: 
Cities and Coronavirus: A Global Roundup
A Greta for Housing? Davos Reacts to the Affordable Housing Crisis
Can "Earthbag" Technology Make Housing More Affordable in Rwanda?
Singapore's Plan to Survive Climate Change
What Cape Town Learned About Water Resiliency
Next Week: IHC Global at the World Urban Forum
In the News and Around the Web
This Week in Photos
Cities and Coronavirus: A Global Roundup
There are currently 80,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide in 40 different countries, with the most significant outbreak in China. 
  • In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia has halted travel for pilgrims to the holy Islamic cities of Mecca and Medina. Iran, on the other hand, continues to allow pilgrimages to Qom, a holy site for Shia Muslims,where the majority of Iran's 250 cases have come from. Iran has also rejected the idea of quarantines for cities or towns, with the government averring it will quarantine "only individuals." On the day before he was diagnosed with coronavirus, Iran Deputy Health Minister and head of its task force on the virus, asserted: "Quarantines belong to the Stone Age."
  • Moscow hardened its quarantine restrictions after a quarantined woman escaped from a hospital in St. Petersburg where she claimed she was held against her will. A court order returned her to the hospital. Now, Moscow has turned to facial recognition technology to ensure quarantine compliance. Russia, with two confirmed cases of coronavirus, has also temporarily barred Chinese nationals from entering the country and recently quarantined 2500 individuals that landed from China.
  • Wuhan, China, the center of the outbreak, has an unexpected hero: delivery drivers. Ten percent of China's 760 million person population is under quarantine and virtually all residents of Wuhan are on some kind of residential lock down. City restrictions say that each household can send someone out for necessities once every three days. This means deliver drivers have "become the country's vital arteries, keeping fresh meat, vegetables, and other supplies flowing to those who need them." One delivery driver observed: "People are nicer, too. [Before the outbreak], some customers barely opened the door or made eye contact. After the outbreak, everyone said thank you."
  • Tokyo, Japan is concerned with the fate of the 2020 Olympics, anticipated to draw 600,000 overseas visitors to the capital city. Japan has confirmed 200 cases nationally in addition to 700 cases offshore on the cruise ship Diamond Princess. One possibility is to relocate Olympics: in 2003, the Women's World Cup was relocated from China to the United States during the SARS outbreak. No decision has been made, but the World Health Organization is working closely with the Japanese government to determine a course of action.

Read more here.
Affordable Housing News

A Greta for Housing? Davos Reacts to the Global Housing Crisis
"We need a Greta for housing," asserted Alice Charles of the World Economic Forum in a recent Next City interview, referring to Swedish environmental activist and teenager Greta Thunberg. Charles explained: "We need at the global level to highlight this issue and a global movement to address the affordable housing crisis." In the meantime, she praised how participants in the World Economic Forum, who convened in Davos last month, explored housing as a pressing, global crisis. She observed: "What amazed me was how much this issue is concerning CEOs in the real estate sector." Participants further agreed cities frequently have  an oversupply of housing for high-income residents, but undersupply for middle and lower income communities, and that they needed strong leadership to finance affordable housing.

Read more here.

Can "Earthbag" Technology Make Housing More Affordable in Rwanda?
Rwanda is facing an affordable housing crisis that is exacerbated by increasing urbanization. As Affordable Human Needs Rwanda's James Ngarambe asserted in a recent CNBC Africa interview, in Rwanda: "What you call affordable, isn't really affordable to some people." Affordable Human Needs seeks to fill the housing gap by lowering construction costs through "earthbag technology." Earthbag technology is the process of using soil found on site to build homes, rather than bringing in sand or cement. Earthbag technology promises time and cost efficiency as well as sustainability and longevity, which has a cultural importance for Rwandan homeowners who often strive to keep houses in the family for multiple generations. The interviewer points out that in Rwanda: "If I have a house, I [will] want to pass onto my great great grandchild as is the norm in our setting."

Read more here.
Cities, Water, and Resilience

Singapore's Plan to Survive Climate Change
Singapore has presented a coastal defense plan to survive climate change, especially temperature increase and sea level rise. The island city-nation is more vulnerable than other parts of the world to the effect of climate change and disasters. For instance, it has warmed twice as fast as the rest of the world over the past sixty years, while a third of the city sits less than five meters above sea level. The comprehensive coastal defense plan will cost Singapore $72 billion USD. The plan will set up a Coastal and Flood Protection fund, invest in urban sustainability research, help reduce carbon emissions by 36% by 2030, phase out vehicles with internal combustion engines by 2040, and reclaim land and hold back the sea by building more reservoirs.

Read more  here .

What Cape Town Learned About Water Literacy
Cape Town, South Africa no longer faces the water crisis that it did in 2017 and 2018 when it almost ran out of water. But, it continues to prioritize water in municipal planning. Gareth Morgan, Head of Resiliency for Cape Town, explains that Cape Town is embracing a longer-term view of its water supply, by building four possible climate change scenarios built into its ten year capital plan. Morgan says: "The idea is to be able at any point to have a flag where you know what scenario you are in and whether your build program and existing assets are sufficiently robust to survive that scenario." Cape Town's City Water Resilience Approach has also committed to increasing its available water supply by more than 300 million liters per day over the next decade, costing approximately $356 million USD.

Read more here.
Next Week: IHC Global at the World Urban Forum

IHC Global is pleased to bring you updates from our time at the World Urban Forum next week. Check your mailbox to find out what we did and what we learned, how we engaged with stakeholders from around the world, and key high-level outcomes from the convening. 

In the News and Around the Web
  • Enabling Sustainable Development in Cities: A Brookings Institution report makes the case for cities to conduct Voluntary Local Reviews to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Counted and Visible: UN Women convened a two-day conference on using data and technology to measure gender and intersecting inequalities.
  • Afrobeats in Sicily:  Nigerian migrants in Sicily, Italy are building a new music scene.
This Week in Photos
  • Capturing New Orleans' Vanishing Black Bars: Photographer L. Kasimu Harris documented the decreasing number of black-owned bars and lounges are decreasing in New Orleans.
Quarantine in Wuhan, China means traffic is light for delivery drivers. 
( Photo credit: Getty Images/Getty Images)
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