New social contract needed for greener, healthier cities: UN-Habitat

(Xinhua) 11:16, March 31, 2021

GENEVA, March 30 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) on Tuesday launched a new report on urban areas, advocating for a "new social contract" for cities post-pandemic and urging governments to reduce poverty for a "just, green and healthy future."

Maimunah Mohd Sharif, executive director of UN-Habitat, said rethinking the form and function of cities, addressing poverty and rebuilding a new urban economy were among the key findings of the report.

"Our cities and towns have been hit the hardest by the pandemic," she said, adding, "Our data on the initial spread shows that 95 percent of the COVID-19 cases were in cities and towns."

According to the executive director, the urban poor are much more exposed to the virus than the other social groups, and they are also more likely to die from COVID-19.

Eduardo Moreno, head of Knowledge and Innovation at UN-Habitat, cited facts and figures from the report, which used data from more than 1,700 cities, saying the pandemic "exacerbated" the living conditions of more than one billion people living in inadequate housing.

In New York, for instance, "71 percent of deaths were in the poorest neighborhoods" while only 6 percent were in the wealthiest communities.

And data from Nairobi showed that people living in slums were 30 percent more likely to be infected by the coronavirus.

In Singapore, the report found 94 percent of COVID-19 cases were in "migrant dormitories" while data from France showed that the "lowest 20 percent" of the poor population had 60 percent more contagions and deaths.

"The pandemic is an X-ray that goes very deep in our society, and is telling us about our inherent inequalities," Moreno noted.

To address the issues, the report called "loud and clear" for a "new social contract" in urban areas, stressing the need for universal basic income, universal health insurance and universal housing.

(Web editor: Guo Wenrui, Liang Jun)


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