The UN in Kenya celebrates World Environment Day 2019

Wed, 26/06/19

This year's theme of World Environment Day - Air Pollution - was observed at the UN Gigiri Compound in Nairobi on 7 June 2019 (5 June being a public holiday in Kenya to celebrate the end of the Holy month of Ramadhan).

Air pollution is responsible for some 7 million deaths a year, including deaths from poor indoor air quality. Furthermore, some 92% of the world’s inhabitants live in areas with poor air quality that is responsible for morbidity and deaths. Air pollution is also responsible for causing damage to wildlife, crops and buildings through fouling and potential chemical action from the type of pollutants.

The event at the Gigiri Complex was well attended by UN staff and senior management including: Ms. Susan Gardner, Ecosystems Director, UN Environment, Mr. Victor Kisob, Deputy Director UN Habitat and Siddharth Chatterjee, UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya.

Representatives and ambassadors of China, Ghana, Estonia and Eritrea joined the celebrations, each pledged to adopt at least one environmentally-friendly measure to combat pollution. With China hosting World Environment Day this year, Mr. Xia Yingxian, the Chinse Deputy Permanent Representative to UN Environment highlighted the strides made in China to embrace alternative sources of energy and affirming that their commitment for a better environment remains steadfast.

In addition to the addresses, various other activities were organised and initiatives, such as an early morning bike-train from the Runda neighbourhood (where a lot of UN staff live), were launched. This initative highlights how many UN staff members cycle to work and that with the right infrastructure, cycling can be a viable option to combating air pollution as a zero-emission mode of transport. To encourage a more prevalent use of zero-emission vehicles, an electric car display was presented, which served as an opportunity for leaders in the electric vehicle industry in Kenya to express their ambition and vision for the market.

To some, the highlight of the day was the unique opportunity presented during the tree-planting where rare and endangered tree species - like the Mulage Cedar, Meru Oak, and other saplings - were planted in the UN compound. A UN-wide webinar hosted by UN Environment and the World Health Organization made sure that UN staff members were aware of the celebrations in other officers, presenting plenty of learning opportunities on air pollution.

Entertainment for the celebrations was provided by a vibrant photo-booth that gave participants a chance to reflect and make their pledge to reduce their contribution to air pollution, as well as Chinese cultural dances by young dancers from the China-Kenya Cultural Centre.