Weekly Urban News Update
March 8, 2019
In This Update: 
India is Home to Some of the Most Polluted Cities in the World
Nairobi Grapples with Air Pollution Health Risks
The Case for Housing Microfinance in Africa
Indian Company Converts Buses into Clean and Safe Public Restrooms for Women
Dayton, Ohio Employs a "Help not Handcuffs Approach" to Fight Opioid Crisis
The Department of Housing and Urban Development Counts Unsheltered Individuals
World Bank Land and Poverty Conference: Catalyzing Innovation
In the News and Around the Web
India is Home to Some of the Most Polluted Cities in the World
India is home to twenty-two of the world's thirty most polluted cities according to a study by Greenpeace India. Data compiled in 2018 from public and private sources identified Delhi as the most polluted capital in the world and Gurugram, to the southwest, as the world's most polluted city. The data also highlights the prevalence of pollution across Asia and Africa: every single city in the Middle East and Africa exceeds WHO air pollution guidelines, while 99% of South Asian cities and 89% of East Asian cities do as well. Greenpeace Southeast Asia Executive Director Yeb Sano hopes the figures will inspire change. Sano says: "Air pollution steals our livelihoods and our futures...We want this report to make people think about the air we breathe, because when we understand the impacts of air quality on our lives, we will act to protect what's most important."

Read more here.
Nairobi Grapples with Air Pollution Health Risks
Researchers and activists are employing creative methods to decrease the exposure of Nairobi slum dwellers to health risks posed by air pollution. The World Health Organization estimates air pollution causes seven million premature deaths each year globally, but these deaths are ten-fold more likely in low and middle income countries especially in informal settlements like Mukuru, Nairobi. Behavioral change is key to minimizing health risks, say researchers Cressida Bowyer and Heather Price. But, Bowyer and Price assert that behavioral-change messages about sustainability and pollution must be culturally relevant and avoid "western" and "academic" preconceptions. In this vein, a 2018 awareness-campaign in Mukuru proved successful because it relied on community participation through digital storytelling, local artists and musicians, and open-forum theater culminating in an arts festival attended by 1500 residents last September.

Read more here.
The Case for Housing Microfinance in Uganda and Kenya
IHC Global sponsor and member Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) has successfully completed its Building Assets, Unlocking Access program designed to improve life quality in Uganda and Kenya through microfinance loans. Because access to stable housing is key to better health outcomes and equitable development, HFHI focused its microfinance loans on enabling housing improvements for the vast majority of Ugandans and Kenyans living in substandard accommodation and locked out of formal housing finance. The housing microfinance program has allowed its recipients to pursue incremental housing improvements like adding extensions, toilets or running water, finishing a roof, or adding insulation. Regional Director Kevin Chetty asserts the program was largely a success: for participants in Kenya, housing satisfaction grew by 15% while in Uganda, housing satisfaction rose by 30%.

Read more here.
Indian Company Converts Buses into Clean and Safe Public Restrooms for Women
In India, women frequently struggle to find a clean and safe space to go to the bathroom. In Pune, the Indian company Sara Plast has made important efforts to change that by converting twelve decommissioned municipal buses into mobile public restrooms. A five cent fee allows women access to showers, a diaper-changing station, sanitary pads, drinking water, and a space for breastfeeding. Sara Plast's Ulka Sadalkhar envisions broader health impacts as well through the informational videos on women's health issues shown on the buses. Sadalkhar says: "Our long-term vision is to make the buses an information hub on health, and develop a channel with the government through which information on epidemic alerts...can be effortlessly passed on to the people."

Read more here.
Dayton, Ohio Employs a "Help not Handcuffs" Approach to Fight Opioid Crisis
The "public health catastrophe" of America's opioid crisis has compelled creative and determined responses from some cities and counties. In Dayton, Ohio, a "help not handcuffs" approach, bolstered by cooperation between county and city leadership, grassroots organizations, and law enforcement agencies, has been credited with a sharp decrease in opioid deaths. The "help not handcuffs" measures means a non-custodial response to overdose: instead of arresting individuals who overdose, police call or visit users shortly after the overdose and offer to help. On the other hand, the measures come down harder on doctors who run illegal 'pill mills' by enforcing lengthy prison sentences. Increased allocation of public money for treatment, outpatient, and recovery facilities has also proved significant.

Read more here.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development Counts Unsheltered Individuals
Every two years, the Department of Housing and Urban Development requires communities that wish to receive federal funding for their homeless programs to participate in Point-In-Time homeless count. Point-In-Time requires volunteers and guides- paid homeless individuals- in cities nationwide to tally the number of unsheltered Americans living on the street on a single night in January. But, advocates and service providers assert Point-In-Time frequently under-counts homeless individuals. They argue this is partially rooted in the January count date. Although HUD has chosen "one of the coldest nights of the year" to effectively raise awareness, advocates believe the winter makes it "harder to actually find folks because they are seeking some sort of refuge." Nonetheless, some like Elaine de Coligny, executive director of nonprofit EveryOneHome see value in the count as some type of metric, despite potential inaccuracy. De Coligny says: "We continue to view it as most likely an undercount. But what it does help us look at is how it's changing over time. So if you're using the same method, you can see trend lines."

Read more here.
World Bank Land and Poverty Conference: Catalyzing Innovation
The World Bank will host its annual Land and Poverty Conference March 25th-29th, 2019 in Washington, DC. Individuals and organizations from academia, civil society, and the private sector will share research and knowledge related to this year's theme "Catalyzing Innovation." IHC Global is pleased to present "Storytelling: A Powerful Strategy to Increase Land/Property Rights in Uganda and Beyond," on March 27th. The paper examines strategies for resolving the discrepancy between legally enshrined property rights and women's ability to exercise them in Uganda.  Conference registration ends today, March 8th., at 11:59 pm.  IHC Global is also eager to support the participation of some of its member organizations as well. 

Find conference information here.
In the News and Around the Web
  • Evictions in Myanmar: Residents of Yangon informal settlements face mass eviction - as part of what UN Habitat calls a "history of government-orchestrated forced resettlement in Myanmar and in Yangon...uprooting and impoverishing people and undermining basic human rights."
  • Architecture in Asmara Raises Complicated Historical Questions: The Eritrean capital Asmara was designated a UNESCO heritage site in 2017, but Atlas Obscura points out that its lauded architecture is rooted in the history of Italian fascism and colonialism.
  • European Union Reports Make the Case for Gender Equality in Cities: Newly published reports by the European Union URBACT program highlight how gender equality is a prerequisite for the well-being of citizens and the prosperity of cities.

A decommissioned bus turned public restroom for women in Pune, India
(Photo credit: Sara Plast Private Limited published in City Lab.)

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