Pope Francis is visiting a slum in Nairobi to press for adequate and dignified housing for society’s most marginal, especially in burgeoning megacities like the Kenyan capital.
Francis frequently insists on the need for the three “Ls” – land, labour and lodging – and today is expected to focus on housing as a critical issue facing the world amid rapid urbanisation that is helping to upset Earth’s delicate ecological balance.
Kangemi is one of 11 slums dotting Nairobi, East Africa’s largest city. The shanty itself has about 50,000 residents living without basic sanitation.
Most of the capital’s slums comprise a maze of single-room mud structures with iron-sheet roofing or cramped, high-rise buildings.
Francis referred to the problem of urban shanties in his speech to the African UN headquarters on Thursday.
He said everyone has a basic right to “dignified living conditions,” and that the views of local residents must be taken into account when urban planners are designing new construction.
“This will help eliminate the many instances of inequality and pockets of urban poverty, which are not simply economic but also, and above all, social and environmental,” he said.
The message was keenly felt because the UN Habitat programme, which seeks to promote adequate and environmentally sustainable housing, is based in Nairobi.
After the visit to Kangemi, the pope is scheduled to meet young Kenyans and hear of their problems with violence and simply trying to live their lives as Christians at a time of Islamic extremism.
Following the encounter, Francis heads to Uganda for the second leg of his trip, where he will honour the country’s Anglican and Catholic martyrs.
On Sunday, he is due to arrive in the Central African Republic, the most dangerous leg of the pilgrimage given the conflict between Christians and Muslims.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev Federico Lombardi, said that plans had not changed and the Bangui leg of the trip was still on.