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UNDP is working with cities in Ethiopia to safely dispose of solid waste. Photo: UNDP Nyasha Mhandu

In between running around doing my daily chores, I find myself daydreaming about bringing up my curious three-year-old daughter in a city that she can go out and enjoy to the fullest. Or that my beloved my mother can take her granddaughter for walks alongside the rivers of Addis Ababa.

The ‘Beautifying Sheger’ initiative was launched by the Prime Minister in February 2019 to clean rivers and create public works. It will run for three years and will reduce the effects of climate change, create jobs, increase tourism and improve the quality of life for everybody who lives here.

I hope it will meet my unspoken aspirations for my city.

While the globe is celebrating the 10th World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi, I wanted to reflect on what we are doing to help bring Addis to the same level as the world’s most progressive cities. As the political capital of Africa and one of the UN’s key locations, Addis deserves to be part of this elite group.

Rapid population growth

Addis is more than 130 years old and is one of the fastest-growing cities in Africa. With more and more people moving here from rural areas, the population is estimated to be more than five million.

Like many other cities in sub-Saharan African countries, population growth has outstripped infrastructure development and that in turn has increased pressure on sanitation and safe water, transport, housing, and energy. The city is also grappling with how to address informal settlements, and widespread un- and under-employment, especially among young people. Citizens also face air, water, and soil pollution and degradation, inadequate solid and liquid waste disposal, and the absence of green spaces.

These challenges have adversely affected the urban ecosystem, socio-economic environment and the overall quality of life. In the meantime, rising temperatures and a changing climate pose growing risks.

Better use of natural resources

The poor management and use of natural resources is also a major concern, including widespread pollution in the Kurtime and Bantiyiketu rivers. These rivers cut through the heart of the city. Sadly, they are treated as garbage dumps and sewage outlets. The situation becomes worse during the rainy season where heavy flooding causes sewage to overflow, contaminating water lines and polluting the city.

The mayor’s office has taken the lead on this initiative and UNDP Ethiopia will help the city administration to plan, execute, monitor and evaluate.

UNDP’s support has also included commissioning basic but critical studies such as environmental and social impact assessment livelihood options. We have also helped to commission a study that will improve the communication and outreach around the initiative, as the project is not an extravagant beautifying exercise but one that will address critical issues to improve the lives and livelihoods of its citizens.

A key role

UNDP is also playing a key role in coordinating other development partners that support the project.

I feel that the UNDP Ethiopia country office is uniquely positioned to make this dream come true. I also find myself professionally accountable to contribute my share, through my office, to the process of changing the face of Addis.

This is a very personal project for me and that is why I will continue to put my experience, heart, and soul into helping UNDP support Addis Ababa to live up to its name ‘New Flower’.

Watch the video here.

Kidanua Abera is a Programme Analyst for Energy and Low Carbon Development. UN Volunteer Nyasha Mhandu contributed to this article.

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