Nairobi has been chosen as one of the 100 Resilient Cities

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The beautiful city of Nairobi has been ailing for long. The green city in the sun has been scarred by the many unprecedented tragedies that have hit her. She remains adamant. She has refused to bow to the challenges that she faces. In 1998, August 7th, Nairobi was hit by one of the worst terrorist attacks in the history of Kenya. The bombing, targeting the American Embassy in the heart of the city, almost brought her to her knees. Approximately 213 people lost their lives and over 4000 were badly injured. Recently, she has been hit by a wave of terrorist attacks, notably the September 2013 Westgate Mall attack that left 61 dead and scores injured. People of goodwill came to her rescue and helped her recover from all that, although not fully.

There has been a myriad of shocks and stresses that have put a strain on the capital of Nairobi. Some of the problems have been the heavy rains that have wreaked havoc on Nairobi-flooding, the crumbling of semi-standard buildings and the spreading of chronic diseases. Among her many other problems are crime and violence, poverty and inequity, scarcity of clean water, informal settlements, aging infrastructure, lack of social cohesion, riot/civil unrest just to mention a few.

Nairobi is not alone. Other cities in the world face similar or even worse challenges. Some have come tumbling down but Nairobi has maintained her resilience in the face of these challenges. The government of Nairobi County has formulated proactive measures to deal with the challenges. The people from the city and other stakeholders have worked to complement the efforts of the county government of Nairobi by making the city habitable for the 5million people who are there by day and 4 million people who are there by night.

Nairobi city. Photo Credit – Mutua Matheka. Image from http://mutuamatheka.co.ke/portfolio/nairobi/

Nairobi has been selected to join the 100RC Network to build urban resilience-an initiative of the 100 Resilient Cities and Rockefeller Foundation. It was chosen from more than 325 applicants on the basis of their willingness, ability and need to become more resilient in the face of future challenges. What this means is that Nairobi will gain access to funding, receive technical support to develop Resilience Strategy that reflects the city’s distinct needs, and the support they need as they work towards implementing that strategy. It is now part of a network of cities which will benefit from the $16o million commitment. This fund will help the cities to become resilient to physical, social and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century.

What does this resilience mean? City Resilience is the capacity of individuals, communities and cities to survive, adapt and grow, no matter what acute shocks and chronic stresses they experience. According to Michael Berkowitz, the 100RC president, a resilient city has good emergency response and meets its citizens’ needs. It has diverse economies and takes care of both its built and natural infrastructure. It has effective leadership, empowered stakeholders, and an integrated planning system.

Many cities face challenges. For instance, as a means to get better services and employment opportunities, there has been mass exodus (by people) to the cities putting a strain on the limited resources available. It is projected that the number of people living in the urban areas will grow to an estimated 70% in 2050 from 50% as at now. This means that cities will face huge deficits in preparedness for rapid growth and natural/man-made disasters. Being part of the 100RC cushions these cities from and prepares them to face challenges.

Pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation, the 100RC initiative aims at seeking solutions into complex and interrelated challenges arising from insecurity, infrastructure, urbanization, climate change and other chronic stresses.

Cities in the 100 resilient cities network will receive the following types of support:

1) Funding to hire Chief Resilience Officer (CRO)-an innovative new senior city official to lead the resilience-building process and coordinate city-wide resilience efforts.
2) Assistance in developing a resilience strategy-The CRO will lead a strategy which will function as the city’s roadmap to resilience.
3) Access partners who will provide tools and services to help design and implement their strategy-Partners in the private, public, academic and NGO sectors will provide resilience-building solutions in-kind.
4) Membership in the 100 Resilient Cities Network-This will help CROs to share best practices, solve problems collectively and learn from each other and from other resilience-building experts.

Although abrupt changes might not be witnessed in this week or the week after, a long term strategy has been established that will not only alleviate the problems for this generation but also for the generations to come. This selection is part of the many positives coming from the city.

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