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Nigerian man inspires local youth to clean up their city

A Nigerian man has gained widespread praise on Twitter due to his desire to mobilize young people to clean up one of the world’s most polluted cities following government inactivity.

   
  
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    Young volunteers shoveled trash out of a gutter. Sanitation workers later shoveled the garbage. Photo credit: Chris Junior Anaekwe

Young volunteers shoveled trash out of a gutter. Sanitation workers later shoveled the garbage. Photo credit: Chris Junior Anaekwe

Chris Junior Anaekwe, self-appointed ‘Ambassador’ for the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), received major support on social media for inspiring local teenagers to clean up their city of Onitsha, a port city located in southern Nigeria. Onitsha, one of the largest urban areas in Anambra state, is a densely populated, industrial hub with recorded air pollution levels of PM10: some of the worst levels in the world. As small, coarse dust particles that penetrate deep into the lungs and the cardiovascular system, PM10 particles pose a huge risk to human health.

Anaekwe, 28, recently posted on Facebook about his role as an Ambassador for the Sustainable Development Goals: “As an SDG ambassador, it is pertinent for my street boys to be educated on the importance of keeping their environment clean. So today, we decided to clean up the street with me leading the exercise. Even with my swollen arm and the pains I feel, I showed them it is good to always lead by example, not by talking talking talking.”

Anaekwe gathered a group of a dozen young boys ages 14-16. On Saturday, January 27, the boys used shovels to clean out the numerous filthy gutters filled with black gunk. According to Anaekwe, the idea did not gain popular sympathy at first amongst the boys, but once they saw Anaekwe doing it, they became motivated to partake.

“We need to help ourselves. We must not wait for the government,” said the 28-year-old to NPR in an interview published on Tuesday, February 6.

   
  
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    Photo credit: Twitter

Photo credit: Twitter

A former colleague of Anaekwe, Chimezie Anajama, called attention to this good deed by praising his actions on Twitter. As of two weeks ago, the tweet has been retweeted nearly 1,500 times.

Since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development by the United Nations General Assembly, back in September 2015, every country around the world has been working toward the universal integration of the goals in their national policy frameworks. The valiant effort by Anaekwe supports the adoption of Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities. Specifically, this effort fits in with Target 11.6:

“By 2030, reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management.”

In order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, the UN has prioritized partnerships with all stakeholders, and one of the most valued partnerships to date is that of youth. The UN firmly believes that an empowered youth is a force for positive change, and Anaekwe’s initiative positively exemplifies the role of youth empowerment in creating social change.