The United Nations called for urgent action to provide low income families and vulnerable populations with affordable housing with security of tenure and easy access to water, sanitation, transport and other basic services. On Monday, October 5, that marks the World Habitat Day, the United Nations gave the call noting that having an adequate home is now, more than ever, a matter of life and death.
Stating that people have been asked to stay at home during the time of Covid pandemic , the United nations noted that this simple measure was impossible for people who do not have adequate housing. It also said that COVID-19 has reminded everyone that home was much more than just a roof. “To make us feel safe and enable us to continue living, working and learning, a home needs to be secure, to allow us to access basic services and infrastructure for hygiene measures and to have enough room for physical distancing. It should also be located in a place that enables residents to access public green and open spaces, employment opportunities, health-care services, schools, childcare centres and other social facilities,” the UN said.
In a message, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that about one billion people live in overcrowded settlements now with inadequate housing and it could rise to 1.6 billion by 2030. “Action is needed now to provide low-income families and vulnerable populations with affordable housing with security of tenure and easy access to water, sanitation, transport and other basic services. To meet global demand, more than 96,000 housing units will need to be completed every day – and they must be part of the green transition,” he said.
The United Nations in 1985 designated the first Monday of October of every year as World Habitat Day to reflect on the state of our towns and cities, and on the basic right of all to adequate shelter. The Day is also intended to remind the world that we all have the power and the responsibility to shape the future of our cities and towns the United Nations designated the first Monday of October every year as World Habitat Day.
Stating that urgency of improving living conditions has been brought to the fore by COVID-P, Guterres said that access to clean water and sanitation, along with social distancing, are key responses to the pandemic. However, it has proved difficult to implement these measures in slums. This means an increased risk of infection, not only within slums, but in whole cities, many of which are largely serviced by low-income informal sector workers living in informal settlements, the UN Chief said.
The chief said: “On World Habitat Day, in this crucial Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, I call for heightened efforts to promote the partnerships. pro-poor policies, and regulations needed to improve housing in cities. As we strive to overcome the pandemic, address the fragilities and inequalities it has exposed, and combat climate change, now is the time to harness the transformative potential of urbanization for the benefit of people and planet.”
The United Nations pointed out that about 1.8 billion people were already living in slums and informal settlements, inadequate housing or in homelessness in the cities worldwide before the pandemic began. They also said that about three billion people lacked basic hand-washing facilities.
Noting that towns and cities moved quickly to provide emergency housing solutions and shelter for the homeless, quarantine spaces, truck in water and postponed evictions, UN Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif urged that these achievements must not be reversed, once the pandemic is over. “These temporary measures need to lead to long term policy changes. Otherwise, poverty and inequalities will be further exacerbated, and millions of people are at risk of losing their homes, once temporary bans on evictions are lified, or when the lack of the stable income results in missed rent or mortgage payments” she said.