Growing up in the village back in the 80’s, we often used to hear stories of this place called Nairobi better known then as the ‘city in the sun’. According to the stories the city was this fabulous place which was clean, well organized and everything worked like clock work. The buses were always on time, garbage was always collected, newspapers and even milk was delivered to your door step just like in the movies and most importantly there was no water rationing. You have to understand that back then in the village these things sounded foreign to us and made us long to visit this place called Nairobi.

You can imagine my disappointment when I finally got to Nairobi in the early 90’s to find a city drowning in garbage. In those days garbage used to be left piling on the side of the streets in big heaps, the stench often proved to be too much to bear for first timers. This was the norm till John Gakuo became the town clerk in 2004 of Nairobi City Council and things changed for the better with the garbage being cleaned up, flowers planted, roads repaired and painted. Nairobi was finally returning to its former glory.

This was not to last for long because as soon as he stepped down from the position of town clerk things started to deteriorate. Fast forward to the year 2017, the garbage piles have started reappearing in downtown Nairobi. Air pollution is also at its highest levels with research showing that the amount of cancer causing elements in the city is ten times higher than the threshold recommended by WHO. With air pollution comes respiratory diseases like pneumonia which is the number one killer of children under the age of 5. Last year a report by the United Nations indicated that 14,300 Kenyans die every year from health conditions that are due to air pollution. Constant fights between healthcare providers and county governments means that most often than not hospitals are either unmanned or do not have adequate medicines. Leading to unnecessary deaths of those in the population not able to access private healthcare.

However, all is not lost as there is still time to rectify the wrongs and Make Nairobi Great Again. This can be done by involving the community in the county governments, this will help the community identify the areas that need urgent attention for example garbage collection, sewerage system maintenance, healthcare, water provision among others. Public Private partnerships  can be able to take care of some issues for example the garbage problem, a while back there was talk of turning garbage into electricity. I don’t know what came of this but I know that I would have a perfect solution for the garbage menace. In regards to healthcare better funding of the health sector by both the national and county governments would sort out the current stalemate.

Mji Wetu is running a campaign to champion for healthier cities by engaging the public to share their experiences of the places that they live in the hope of finding a lasting solution. As a sweetener to the deal, one stands a chance to win Ksh.15,000 for the most creative submission. So make your submissions and join Mji Wetu in this noble campaign.