Ethiopia: Healthy Cities, Decorous Lifestyles

Nowadays, the majority of world population live in cities with urbanization moving in faster rates, including in the least urbanized regions of our universe. Population number in cities continuously increases in big chunks primarily due to urbanization and natural population growth. According to official projections, world’s urban population is expected to surpass six billion by 2050, a ratio that substantially undermines the rural population by the time.

Where as cities are places where large number of people commonly live in a relatively more condensed geographical area, the general condition of the environment is always in jeopardy. Moreover, urbanized habitats are hubs of government, commerce, transportation, industries and many more which proves the issue for the need of healthy cities more pressing.

Ethiopia used to be known as under-urbanized, even by African standards until very recently. Things look very different these days. Anyone who frequents Addis and other cities once in a while witnesses the completion of certain skyscrapers and the commencement of scaffolding for a new one beside it. This trend has continued for more than a decade now and is ensuring a swift urban development in the capital as well as in smaller cities which keeps the cities in state of expansion.

With more than 80 per cent of Nation’s population still living in the countryside, the development of road networks, market accessibility and the need for better social services is contributing to the flow of large crowds to cities day in and day out. In the meantime, it is fundamental to make sure that cities are attractive places in which to work and live, through securing safe and healthy environment.

Addis Ababa, the capital city is the country’s political and economic centre, home to head offices of African Union and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. It also accommodates many international aid and development organizations in addition to more than 100 embassies. The city’s population is estimated to be 3.6 million and counting. The economic development witnessed in the country coupled with investment inflows and conference tourism signals to act towards properly managing the city.

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However, Addis is among the worst in traffic accident related deaths, according to reports. For instance the World Health Organization recently reported that traffic accidents in Ethiopia account for the deaths of 37.28 persons per 100,000 of which the majority occurs in the capital. This is 2.77 per cent of the total deaths in the country, placing the country 12th in the world.

It is well acknowledged that city systems have to be well-equipped in infrastructure, employment, social services, investments and the like to provide for growing populations, so that new residents can propel higher productivity and faster national growth. In parallel cities need to ensure safety to its residents.

In support of the Nation’s efforts in upgrading the state of Addis Ababa to a more decently habitable metropolis, the city has joined WHO Healthy Cities project to intensify efforts towards reducing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and injuries by 2018.

Partnership for Healthy Cities is a prestigious global network of cities committed to saving lives by preventing NCDs and injuries. The initiative, supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies in partnership with WHO, as well as Vital Strategies, will enable cities around the world to deliver a high-impact policy or programmatic intervention to reduce NCD risk factors in their communities.

“In Ethiopia, 51 per cent of deaths every year are attributable to non-communicable diseases and injuries,” said City Mayor Deriba Kuma up on disclosing cities inclusion in the worldwide partnership. Deriba further expresses his pleasure in joining the former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to engage in this global effort promoting change in the community towards ensuring healthier and longer lives for citizens.

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Exposure to NCDs is high in low and middle-income countries with 67 per cent of global deaths, where making the matter worse, only one percent of health funding addresses them. Addis Ababa, as partaker in the partnership for Healthy Cities is committing to take proven steps to reduce risk factors for non communicable diseases and injuries and improve environments where people live, work and play.

Bloomberg said, “the partnership for Healthy Cities brings immediate support to cities whose mayors are committed to healthier lives for their citizens and to leading the charge globally to reduce NCDs and injuries.” He further noted that small changes at community levels can save many lives caused by injuries and NCDs currently claiming eight out of ten deaths globally. The majority of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, and many of them are preventable if proven solutions are put into place.

Hence in dealing with the situation, targeting cities should be duly considered as cities are uniquely positioned to transform the fight against diseases and injuries by implementing policies to significantly reduce exposure to risk factors.

Addis Ababa will work with Bloomberg Philanthropies and implementing partners for the coming 18 months to improve road safety, receiving technical assistance as needed. The initiative will also hand cities five million USD to focus on healthy lifestyles. Moreover, the initiative will offer the city a chance to share health, accident and injury related good practices and lessons learned among participating mayors of different cities. The partnership leverages the unique positioning of mayors to help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 including improving health and creating safer, more sustainable cities.

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