UN chief calls for better urban preparedness to ward off future health crises

By Jerry Omondi

FILE PHOTO: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the opening of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York, September 25, 2018. /Reuters Photo‍

The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called upon governments to “rethink and reshape the urban world” to ensure they are better prepared for any future crises.

Guteres said the inequalities and shortcomings that exist in many urban regions globally have helped fuel the spread of COVID-19.

“And now is our chance to recover better, by building more resilient, inclusive and sustainable cities”, he said in his recorded message launching the latest UN policy brief, “COVID-19 in an urban world”.

The UN chief highlighted deeply rooted inequalities in the poorest areas, citing strained health systems, inadequate water and other challenges that cities are facing in common, with 90 per cent of reported COVID-19 cases concentrated in urban areas.

His message comes as the world’s number of COVID-19 infections have surpassed 16.5 million with a death toll exceeding 654,000.

“We must prioritize those who are the most vulnerable in our cities, including guaranteeing safe shelter for all and emergency housing to those without homes,” said Guterres.

He called upon governments to put more focus on informal settlements in efforts to strengthen their preparedness for any future health crises.

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