Linking Sport and the Environment to the Peace and Poverty Agenda in Kenya

Posted on 19 June 2008. Filed under: Environment, Governance, Lifestyle, MDGs, Media, Poverty, Sports |


UNEP and Underprivileged Children and Youth Kick Off New Reconciliation Initiative

Nairobi, 18 June 2008–More than 300 children and teenagers from across Nairobi will gather on 21 June for the launch of a three-month event to promote peace and reconciliation.

The ‘Play for the Planet: Play for Peace’ initiative, organized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has received about $40,000 of support in cash and in kind from UNEP, the International Olympic Committee and sports-goods maker PUMA, as well as the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) and ABC Bank. It will run until 21 September to coincide with World Peace Day.

The event aims to use the power of sport to promote peace and reconciliation among Kenyans, and to provide a positive environment for interaction for young people affected by the recent post-election conflict in Kenya.

The 21 June launch at the Kenya Cultural Centre will include theatre performances, acrobatic shows, peace and environmental messages and a live concert, as well as an exhibition of paintings by internally displaced children.

A series of events for children and youth aged 6 to 24 will then take place in schools and communities across the parts of Nairobi most affected by the recent unrest: the informal settlements of Mathare, Huruma, Mathare North, Kibera, Dandora and Korogocho.

Activities in schools and at community level will include talks, drama workshops, tree planting and a clean-up of the Nairobi river, as well as weekend sports tournaments. Community-based organizations will help implement the activities, and youth peer counsellors trained by UN-HABITAT will also provide counselling to the affected and traumatized children.

Kenyan sports personalities such as world-famous marathon runners Paul Tergat and Catherine Ndereba will attend some of the events.

Based on the success of the event, UNEP may consider extending the initiative to other parts of the country which were affected by the unrest.

Notes to editors

This is the first edition of UNEP’s sports and peace initiative. The aim is to use sport as an avenue to promote and foster peace, in line with UNEP’s long term strategy on Sport and the Environment endorsed by UNEP Governing Council in 2003.

Homeboyz radio will provide live coverage for the opening event on 21 June.

For more information, please contact:

Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson, Office of the Executive Director, on Tel: +254 20 762 3084; Mobile: 254 733 632 755 or when traveling +41 795 965 737; E-mail:

Or Anne-France White, Associate Information Officer, on Tel: +254 20 762 3088, Mobile: + 254 728600494; E-mail:

Or Theodore Oben, Chief of UNEP’s Outreach Unit, on Tel: +254 724 255 247; E-mail:

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WAJIBU: Redifining Ourselves

Posted on 21 May 2008. Filed under: Governance, Media, Politics |

“People who ignore their history are bound to repeat it” (Desmond Tutu)

If we really wish never again to see a repetition of the traumatic events that we experienced after the 2007 elections, we CANNOT AND WE MUST NOT bury the memory of what happened in the early months of 2008.

WAJIBU, in this first double first issue of the year brings you not simply the events of that period as lived by many Kenyans but also the reflections of thoughtful writers (many of them young but established) on the underlying reasons for this outbreak of violence. At the same time, we give you the thoughts of religious leaders as well as of social activists on the paths we must choose if we wish to live in “unity, peace and liberty” in the Kenya we love.

Some of the well-known writers and leaders who have contributed to this issue are: Sheikh Said Athman, Muthoni Garland, Shalini Gidoomal, Fr. Patrick Kanja, Mukoma wa Ngugi, Yvonne Owuor, Stephen Partington, Binyavanga Wainaina and Rasna Warah.

WAJIBU can be obtained for Ksh. 100/= at the following outlets: Stanley Kiosk, Simply Books, University of Nairobi Bookshop, Catholic Bookshop, LISS library at the Rahimtulla Trust Building on Mfangano Street, Books First (Yaya Centre) and Monty’s (Sarit Centre).

Or contact Editors: Dipesh Pabari (dpinkenya (at) or Wakuraya Wanjohi (wakurayag (at)

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Environmental Change and Infectious Diseases

Posted on 15 October 2007. Filed under: Education, Environment, Media |

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

The environment influences our health in many ways — through exposures to physical, chemical and biological risk factors. Globally, nearly one quarter of all deaths and of the total disease burden can be attributed to the environment. In commemoration the BLOG ACTION DAY, we highlight the fact that millions of people die annually from preventable environmental causes, and that such diseases could be prevented through better management of our environment.

Over the last 30 years the reversal in the declining death rate due to infectious diseases has alarmed international health experts. Dramatic successes in eradicating small pox, controlling polio and tuberculosis, and eliminating vector-borne diseases such as yellow fever, dengue and malaria from many regions convinced most experts the era of infectious diseases would soon be over. Unfortunately this optimistic prognosis was premature as a number of diseases have dramatically reemerged. Tuberculosis, cholera, dengue, plague and malaria have increased in incidence or geographic range, as have new drug-resistant strains of bacteria. In addition newly recognised diseases, such as Aids or Sars, have emerged.

The present global emergence of infectious diseases is clearly associated with the social and demographic changes of the past 50 years, particularly urbanisation and globalisation, with the attendant spread of pathogens (agents causing disease) via infected humans, hosts, vectors or commodities. The change in the environment caused by human activities is also apparent in the transformation of much of our landscape and conversion of regional systems once dominated by natural ecosystems. Factors include expansion into urban or peri-urban habitat, deforestation, and the spread of intensive farming. The environment’s role in the emergence of diseases is apparent in the connections between the direct consequences of human changes to urban and rural landscapes and ecosystems, and the secondary effects on disease emergence factors. Developing irrigated agriculture, for example, can create breeding grounds for mosquitoes, a vector for malaria. Likewise the inadequate storm drainage and sewerage systems often associated with rapid urbanisation not only increase the breeding habitat for disease vectors but facilitate the spread of waterborne pathogens causing cholera and leptospirosis.

Overwhelming evidence points to human demographic changes as the major direct and indirect factor contributing to the increase in infectious disease, with somewhat different dynamics and mechanisms at work in urban and rural environments. In the first case the increasing number of people crowded into dense settlements has dramatically increased opportunities for food, water, rodent and vector-borne pathogens to “colonise” and persist in human populations. Each pathogen has unique transmission and adaptive characteristics that determine a minimum population for survival (the threshold for measles is about 250,000 people). Whether the threshold is 100,000 or a million the number of large urban settlements and the average settlement size has been growing fast in recent decades. The number of cities of one million or larger was 76 in 1950, 522 in 1975, 1,122 in 2000, and is set to exceed 1,600 by 2015. This 20-fold increase translates to a roughly similar increase in global infectious disease vulnerability due to this one factor alone.

This type of growth has indirect social and environmental consequences that contribute to multiplying the actual increase in population. Poverty, poor living conditions, including lack of sanitation and infrastructure for waste-water and solid waste management, increases opportunities for vector- borne diseases and others passing from animals to humans. The geographic spread and expansion into peri-urban areas of the mosquito Aedes albopictus, exquisitely adapted for breeding in discarded plastic containers and used automobile tires, is a good example of how a potential vector of viral diseases has taken advantage of environmental change. Lack of sanitation and waste water treatment, and industrial scale intensification of animal production systems the world over, contribute to exotic species, and the proliferation and spread of water and food-borne pathogens. Increasingly frequent outbreaks of infections are caused by these and other organisms, many of which may eat alongside or prey on wild mammals and birds as natural parasites. The contamination of surface waters and spread of pathogens is further promoted by the alteration of catchments and watersheds accompanying urbanisation, and intensive farming around cities. Channelling streams, removing vegetation on the banks, and filling in wetland – all of which accompany unplanned urbanisation – eliminate the natural retention and nutrient recycling systems, as well as barriers to surface run-off contaminated with intestinal pathogens. Nutrient pollution leading to oxygen depletion in estuaries, lakes, streams and even stretches of ocean, such as the Gulf of Mexico, helps such pathogens survive too.

In rural areas population and consumption play a less direct role in contributing to disease emergence, particularly as rural emigration is fuelling the demographic explosion in cities. It is more that urban areas are driving a sustained increase in the timber trade, agriculture, stock raising and mining, resulting in turn in deforestation and changes in land use that are transforming rural landscapes and natural areas in ways that often facilitate the emergence of disease. Deforestation or even “patchy” reforestation leads to ecological changes such as increased edge habitat and local extinction of predators that favour some disease vectors and reservoir species. Encroachment of individuals and settlements on natural ecosystems brings humans into contact with known and novel pathogens. The spread and intensification of farming results in the development of irrigation systems, ideal breeding sites for mosquitoes and a habitat for opportunistic insects and rodents that may be vectors or reservoirs for disease. Dams provide a favourable habitat for other vectors.

Climate change represents a potential environmental factor affecting disease emergence. Shifts in the geographic ranges of hosts and vector, the effect of increasing temperature on reproductive, development and mortality rates on hosts, vectors, and pathogens, and the effects of increased climate variability on flooding and droughts all have the potential to affect disease incidence and emergence positively or negatively. At present there is insufficient evidence to indicate what the net effect will be once climate changes begin to have a major affect on ecosystems. However, a dominant theme emerging from research on the ecology of infectious disease is that accelerated and abrupt environmental change, whether natural or caused by humans, may provide conditions conducive to pathogen emergence: pathogen adaptation, host switching, and active or passive or dispersal.

The resurgence of infectious diseases worldwide reflects our quick-fix mentality, with poor development planning, a lack of political determination and institutional inertia. It is not the inevitable result of development, environmental change, or even incremental population growth. On the contrary much can be done to reverse the current trend. As well as rebuilding the public health infrastructure for infectious diseases, there is substantial evidence and a growing number of examples of how regional planning and development, including urbanisation, agricultural expansion, and the management and conservation of forests and other ecosystems can minimise and even reduce outbreaks of infectious disease as well as environmental damage. Basically we need an integrated approach to pathogen control. This approach will involve meshing social and economic development programmes, environmental and natural resource management, with intervention based on the reinvigorated field of disease ecology and methods involving community participation.

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Kenya’s Slum Kids Get Their Own TV Show

Posted on 5 October 2007. Filed under: Development, Media |

Nairobi is home to some of the world’s biggest slums, and more than half of its 3 million people live in them. Many in the slums don’t even have electricity, so it was quite an event recently when a white screen went up, the speakers were turned to full blast and dozens of children saw the first episode of Slum-TV. Nick Wadhams has the story from Nairobi.

On the giant screen, a crazed preacher heckles his worshippers, steals their money and loses his parish to a competitor, all within minutes. The crowd gathered in a dirt courtyard applauds and laughs in delight.

This is Slum-TV, a new project that gives a team of kids in Nairobi’s slums the video camera to record everyday life and then play it back on the big screen. The first episode told of life in Mathare, one of the largest slums on the planet, and was played after dark in a neighboring slum, almost as big, called Korogocho.

As well as maniacal preachers, the episode featured interviews with people who wouldn’t normally get much of a voice: a man who makes donuts, a woman who feeds poor children, another man who makes his living pushing a cart down the street.

In Korogocho, few people have televisions or the electricity needed to turn them on. Earlier this summer, police cut power and water to try to crush criminal gangs in one of Nairobi’s slums. The move ended up hurting regular people, particularly women and children, most of all.

Peter Ndolo, one of the organizers, says he hopes Slum-TV will open up worlds for the kids of Korogocho, some of whom hardly ever leave this maze of dirt paths, tin-roofed tenements and shops.

“We are in Korokocho slums and maybe somebody has lived here for the rest of his life,” he said. He doesn’t know about Mathare. We just screened about Mathare, about the informal schools, about the feeding programs, about the business in the slums. So at least they know there is this kind of business.”

The United Nations estimates that about a sixth of the world’s six billion people live in slums, and certainly in Nairobi’s shantytowns, there is little organized entertainment.

Slum-TV is definitely a work in progress. For the first few minutes, the sound fails. But then it’s pure magic. The crowd is silent, listening attentively, or laughing hard.

Irene Senna, 15, pauses for a minute to talk about what she saw. She says she appreciated the lessons and the entertainment of the piece.

“It was great. I learned a lot from what I didn’t know. I’ve seen what’s been happening to the other side of the slum,” she said. “And I’ve seen some people do things which are not necessary, like stealing from each other.”

Slum-TV got initial funding from the Austrian Development Corporation and now most of the producers are members of MYSA, the Mathare Youth Sports Association. They are volunteers looking to gain a skill, like working a video camera, that they can then parlay into finding a well-paying job.

Among the organizers is Sam Hopkins, a Kenyan-born artist. He sits atop a van through the entire show, taking pictures of the kids in the darkness and shouting occasionally to the crew if the sound goes bad or the video needs tweaking.

As he gathers up his crew to leave, Hopkins says Slum-TV is more than entertainment. It is meant to teach lessons to children who sometimes can’t go to school. It is meant to teach the production crews who work on it new skills. And it’s meant to serve as a living record of the slums.

“We have a Web site where we archive all of the material so people can hear about whatever, how people fry chips in Mathare,” said Hopkins. “Because in 10 years time, you know, the language will have changed, chips will have changed, and that’s not being preserved in any document. The other side, the guys can go once a month on a screen, see themselves represented. Which is critical I think in terms of how you identify yourself within a society.”

Well after the movies end, some children dance in the white light of the projector. But they do not linger once the lights are turned out. The slum is a dangerous place at night and has recently seen raids, arrests and killings by police looking to round up members of a mafia-style group known as the Mungiki. Few people, especially children, want to stay very long.

With all that hardship, Ndolo says he’s learned a valuable lesson about finding the best way to get kids in the slums to pay attention.

“I am so happy people saw it, people laughed, enjoyed it. They want more, you can see them shouting,” added Ndolo. “They want the comedy back. At least now we know what we’ll use as a video to pass the message through it. Like if they are so enjoying the comedies, we’ll use the comedies to pass the message. So every screening, comedy. This is Peter Ndolo, keep it lock, VOA baby.”

Republished from VOA News

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    A blog created to cover environmental and political information in Kenya with a view to promoting POVERTY ALLEVIATION through creating awareness of the Millennium Development Goals


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