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  • Sarah Beeching

World Urban Forum: Tackling Urban Health Challenges in a Changing World

Over 15,000 delegates participated in the 11th World Urban Forum. This biennial event, organised by UN Habitat, is recognised as the foremost global arena for interaction among key high-level policy makers, local government leaders, NGOs and stakeholders to discuss global urbanisation challenges and solutions.


Watch Sarah Beeching's Session at the World Urban Forum


The report from WUF11 highlights the triple crises of the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change and conflicts which are pushing already marginalised populations further into poverty. The New Urban Agenda sets out a pathway to achieve the SDG 11 and includes addressing the challenges of affordable and sustainable housing and creating resilient cities.


Sarah Beeching, Oshun Partnership’s Executive Director spoke at a UN Special Session focusing on how the momentum achieved through the Healthy Cities, Healthy People programme could be put into operation.


Health services have been pushed to breaking point by recent crises the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing health inequities. Often classic public health interventions are the only option to protect vulnerable citizens. However, many interventions that would support the prevention of disease sit outside the health sector. These include improving infrastructure for water, sanitation and drainage, solid waste disposal and improving planning and housing provision. Many of these areas lie under the responsibility of city leaders and yet they often do not have a seat at the decision-making table.


The session presented a range of health challenges faced by city leaders and some new approaches to managing disease, including tracking, managing epidemics and prevention through improved urban design.


Sarah Beeching said “Covid 19 shone a spotlight on the vulnerabilities of our cities everywhere. We saw how health systems struggled. We saw how our economies suffered. We need to be better prepared in the future. That starts by ensuring that we use every tool in the bag to tackle endemic disease... Because only by getting better at tackling diseases that we know about will we be better prepared for any new disease that emerges. If we can’t monitor diseases we know, and I will use rabies as an example because the data is very weak, how will we pick up a new disease when it arrives? And we need all sectors to contribute to better outcomes, to come together under the leadership of the people who know their communities the best, our city leaders. It’s critical that we learn from this pandemic so that we are better prepared next time.’