Sep 30 2009
World Habitat Day – Raising awareness of the dire need for affordable adequate housing among the world’s poor!
On October 5th the world will celebrate World Habitat Day. The purpose of this day, declared by the United Nations, is to raise awareness about the dire need for adequate housing among hundreds of millions, even billions, of the world's poor. According to Habitat for Humanity:
Worldwide, more than 2 million housing units per year are needed for the next 50 years to solve the present worldwide housing crisis. With our global population expanding, however, at the end of those 50 years, there would still be a need for another 1 billion houses. (UN-HABITAT: 2005)
Raising awareness and advocating for change are the first steps toward transforming systems that perpetuate the global plague of poverty housing. World Habitat Day serves as an important reminder that everyone must unite to ensure that everyone has a safe, decent place to call home.
The U.N. further states that both developed and developing countries, cities and towns are increasingly feeling the effects of climate change, resource depletion, food insecurity, population growth and economic instability.
Rapid rates of urbanization cause serious negative consequences – overcrowding, poverty, slums with many poorly equipped to meet the service demands of ever growing urban populations.
With over half of the world’s population currently living in urban areas the U.N. believes there is no doubt that the “urban agenda” will increasingly become a priority for governments, local authorities and their non-governmental partners everywhere.
Global poverty facts
- By the year 2030, an additional 3 billion people, about 40 percent of the world’s population, will need access to housing. This translates into a demand for 96,150 new affordable units every day and 4,000 every hour. (UN-HABITAT: 2005)
- One out of every three city dwellers – nearly a billion people – lives in a slum. (Slum indicators include: lack of water, lack of sanitation, overcrowding, non-durable structures and insecure tenure.) (UN-HABITAT: 2006)
- UN-Habitat has reported that because of poor living conditions, women living in slums are more likely to contract HIV/AIDS than their rural counterparts, and children in slums are more likely to die from water-borne and respiratory illness. (UN-HABITAT: 2006)
- Housing formation generates non-housing related expenditures that help drive the economy. (Kissick, et al: 2006)
- Investing in housing expands the local tax base. (Kissick, et al: 2006)
The facts are undeniable. Housing for the poor is one of the basic necessities that is simply not being met, both in developed and developing countries.
Today I live in Switzerland, but during my first several years as a teacher, as well as during my own high school life, I lived in Asia, where poverty is far more visible than here in Europe. At my last school, I was able to participate in a Habitat for Humanity trip myself, to Lucena City in the Philippines. The week I spent building a house with my 20 students was one of the greatest weeks of my career as a teacher. Below is the album from that amazing week in a small village in the Philippines:
|Shanghai American School, Habitat Philippinese 2007 – Lucena City|
In Bangkok, where I had my first teaching job, the problem of urban poverty was visible on every street corner. As part of a senior course I taught on Service Learning, I used to take upper class international school students into Bangkok's poorest slums to learn about the challenges faced by the city's poor. The most obvious challenge, visible everywhere in the city of 12 million, was lack of adequate housing. I made the video below to document my students' “Urban Plunge” into the Bangkok slums, and to raise awareness of the issues faced by Thailand's poor:
In a few days the world will acknowledge World Habitat Day. Take a moment, follow the link at the top of this post. Read about the issues faced by nearly a third of the world's population, and see how you can get involved. Oh, and if you have the chance to participate in a Habitat build through your school or community, do it! I promise you, the experience will change your life, but more importantly, it will help improve the life of someone in need of one of life's most basic necessities, safe shelter, a HOME!