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Kenya: Deadly building collapse, stricter rules

Deadly building collapse in Kenya shows need for stricter regulations: UN agency

The collapse of a multi-storey building earlier this week in Nairobi, which killed at least 14 people and injured more than 100, shows the need for stricter regulations on construction, the head of the United Nations settlement agency said, calling for a halt on all similar projects in the Kenyan capital until new legislation is in place.

Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), made her comments during a visit to the ruins of the building, where she said the tragedy should be seen “in the broader crisis of chaotic urbanization taking place on the African continent.”

Rescue teams from Kenya, as well as from the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel, are working around-the-clock to try and find any remaining survivors, UN-HABITAT said in a statement released today, adding that the Government had also sent home some City Hall officials it said were responsible for the disaster.

However Mrs. Tibaijuka said simply sending people home was not enough and there must be legal action and further investigation into Monday’s tragedy.

“The correct position is that they must be taken to court and face the due process of the law. This way, it can be established, more objectively, who was at fault, and corrective measures would be taken so that it serves as a lesson to others in positions of responsibility," she said.

The agency said a government spokesman had confirmed that authorities would soon carry out an audit of all ongoing construction in the city centre to verify quality and avert further tragedy.

The Executive Director also visited some of the injured in hospital and heard first-hand about the lack of strict controls at the building site and how workers were afraid to speak out for fear of losing their jobs if they raised issues of safety.

“I am a very lowly worker and when you see people in suits coming to the site and talking to the foreman there is nothing you can do because if you raise any objection you are sacked. I assumed all would be well," Michael Ngigi, a mason, said when asked why he didn’t protest when he saw building rules ignored. Reacting to an emergency appeal after the building collapsed, 37 UN staff from various organizations donated blood for the survivors at Nairobi Hospital on Tuesday.

“We are an integral part of the Kenyan community and any calamity that affects a part of it, affects us all. I am pleased to see that we respond not only as an organization, which is our duty, but as individuals as well,” said Klaus Toepfer, Director General of the UN Office in Nairobi.

In another development, the UN International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) today announced that it will provide the Kenyan Government with a $17.5 million loan and an $845,000 grant to help finance the country’s $19.8 million Smallholder Dairy Commercialization Programme.

The programme aims to boost milk production, traded milk products and the incomes and health of workers, benefiting 24,000 Kenyan households, the Rome-based agency said.

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