Map of the world with graphics showing the growth of the population living in cities

Dispatch from UN-Habitat in Kenya: Andrew Horne’s second blog from the virtual field

Photo credit: UN-Habitat

By Andrew Horne, MIPP

In today’s blog, I will briefly look at some of the work UN-Habitat is doing in relation to both the Covid-19 Pandemic and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Specifically, I will be looking at SDG 11 – Make Cities inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable, and I will be focusing on objective 1, which aims to, “By 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums”.

According to UN-Habitat, three billion people will need housing by 2030, and the realization of adequate housing is a key component of basic human rights. Insufficient housing has negative impacts on equity and inclusion in urban regions, and issues like low educational attainment, crime, and poor well-being have all been associated with inadequate housing and slums. It should also be noted that these issues are relevant in both high-income and low-income countries alike, as housing costs have increased at rates far exceeding wages in many countries, including Canada.

UN-Habitat plays an important role in monitoring the state of informal settlements (also called slums) and housing affordability. By collecting and analysing data on informal settlements and housing affordability, UN-Habitat ensures that decisionmakers, both state and non-state, have access to accurate and up-to-date information. The news is good as far as data trends are concerned, with the global percentage of urban dwellers living in slums declining from 28% to 23% over the period of 2000-2014. Yet, this rate of improvement will need to speed up if SDG 11 is to be met by 2030.

UN-Habitat has continued to play a crucial role in promoting health and safety throughout the pandemic. My specific team has been working on addressing certain challenges arising from Covid-19 in informal settlements. For example, this work has included handing out masks and setting up handwashing stations in informal settlements in Kenya, which has had the added benefit of creating some employment for youth. It is important to note that slums do not have the same municipal services that official cities do, such as police, garbage collection, health units, and so on. This means that organizations like UN-Habitat often help to ‘fill in the gap’ to improve living conditions.

Beyond my team, UN-Habitat has provided support to 6.8 million people in 37 countries and 262 cities, helping them adapt to the pandemic. This has primarily been done through the implementation of numerous projects with a variety of partners. In 2020, UN-Habitat was able to provide support to 36 national governments and more than 20 cities, reaching about 300,000 people in informal settlements.

While much progress on SDG 11 has been made, the reality is that roughly one in five urban dwellers lives in a slum. If SDG 11 is to be achieved, these numbers will need to decline in the next decade. I have tried to give a brief overview of the various ways in which UN-Habitat works to address SDG 11. That said, there is still much that needs to be done, and I am looking forward to working on projects related to SDG 11 in the future!

As I continue with my internship, I am reminded of the importance of adaptability and flexibility. I wrote in my previous blog that I would be working with the Innovation Branch at UN-Habitat. However, as a result of some unforeseen circumstances, I have been moved to the Human Rights and Social Inclusion unit. We often find ourselves confronted with unforeseen and unexpected challenges in life, and being flexible allows us to adapt to these challenges and continue to achieve our goals. I am happy to say that I have been able to adapt to these changing circumstances, and I am excited to see what the future holds for me at UN-Habitat!


Tracking Progress Towards Inclusive, Safe, Resilient and Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements. SDG 11 SYNTHESIS REPORT. HIGH LEVEL POLITICAL FORUM. 2018.

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