Urban Health and Communities
The world is urbanizing at an increasingly rapid pace. As the trend continues, many will have no alternative but to move to informal settlements, commonly called slums. UN-HABITAT estimates that, of all urban residents worldwide, sub-Saharan Africa currently has the largest proportion of urbanites living in slums (nearly 72%)1.
Jhpiego has implemented two large programs in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya in the past several years and is a founding member of the Nairobi Urban Health Poverty Partnership, a collaborative effort designed to demonstrate the variety of interventions that must be addressed to foster sustainable improvements to health in urban slums. With support from the Rockefeller Foundation (2005-2007) and the Wallace Global Fund (2006-2008) Jhpiego has created a sustainable model that links empowered communities with strengthened health facilities.
Examples of the sustainable successes that Jhpiego has spearheaded in the slums include:
- Peer Education: Young people have been trained by Jhpiego to counsel their peers on safe sex practices. This has empowered them with knowledge regarding HIV, dispelled myths and has increased the community’s respect for people living with HIV and their families. As an example of the far-reaching success of the peer education training, Jhpiego-trained peer educators saved lives by using their counseling skills to diffuse violence among their peers during the 2007 post-election turmoil in Kenya.
- Ongoing Support Groups: Jhpiego created and/or strengthened support groups for women living with HIV and for young pregnant women. Slums typically exhibit high levels of stigma, discrimination and insecurity; these support groups provide women with a forum to come together to address their collective needs. Though these groups were formed by Jhpiego, they continue to meet even after program activities have ended.
- Community Mapping: Jhpiego worked with community groups to create maps and directories that visually show the geographic nature of health risks and opportunities in the slums. The community health mapping and services directory exercises have provided a forum for girls to explore and discuss the reality of health in their communities.
Through its Nairobi programs, slums assessments in other parts of Africa, as well as its technical expertise, Jhpiego is looking expand its urban programming to other slums in Kenya and worldwide. Jhpiego has shown that targeted amounts of funding can make a huge impact. To demonstrate that even more can be done with increased levels of support, the time is now.
1UN-HABITAT. 2003. The Challenge of Slums: Global Report on Human Settlements