While the heart of Habitat for Humanity’s mission is building and renovating housing for families in need of affordable, quality homes, the organization also takes on a number of other causes, such as helping people secure land for their homes and increasing access to clean water. Habitat for Humanity works around the world and collaborates closely with community members and local organizations in several countries to identify and meet quality-of-life needs. One of the key regions in which the organization works is Africa. While African nations have made great strides in development, many of them continue to face major roadblocks in providing affordable housing. At present, Habitat for Humanity works in 10 African countries and has made a major impact in many of them, including:
About 80 percent of families in Malawi live in homes that are below basic standards, and few people will ever have the chance to purchase a decent home at an affordable price. Most homes are constructed from mud bricks and have dirt floors and thatched roofs that leak if not repaired frequently. These conditions put people at risk of disease, as damp houses and mud floors attract insects that can jeopardize health. Furthermore, the country has a high population of orphaned children, and a high rate of rural to urban migration. Slums have sprung up around cities as more and more people leave the countryside in search of work.
To help address these issues, Habitat for Humanity has undertaken a number of projects, such as providing families with mosquito nets treated with insecticide to reduce the incidence of malaria. Families also receive training on sanitation and hygiene. A Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) project is active in Lilongwe’s Kauma Slum to provide access to clean water and functioning latrines. Girls and caregivers have access to HIV prevention training to reduce rates of transmission.
Habitat for Humanity has also constructed more than 300 homes for vulnerable families and orphan groups in Malawi. In addition, older orphaned children and other vulnerable groups have received vocational training and access to tools and equipment, such as sewing machines.
In addition, a Housing Support Services project works with low-income families to provide microloans and technical assistance with construction. This support makes it feasible for families to move into a decent home. The program has served more than 5,000 people in Malawi.
This tiny country surrounded on all sides by South Africa struggles with an incredibly high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, with about one in four individuals infected. As a result, many children have lost one or both parents and now live in crowded, unhygienic dwellings. Exposure to the elements, lack of sanitation, and overcrowding plagues more than half of all homes in the country. Land ownership issues have made the situation worse for those families who have fallen victim to both land and property theft, leaving them without any shelter at all.
To address these pressing needs in Lesotho, Habitat for Humanity has launched a Vulnerable Groups Housing program, which focuses on the construction of simple homes made from concrete blocks and corrugated iron sheets. These durable homes are small, consisting of only two rooms, but they offer improved security. In addition, ventilated pit latrines provide better sanitation. The program also works with families to ensure legal land ownership prior to construction. Participating families also undergo trainings in home maintenance, inheritance rights, and hygiene.
Understanding that housing is only part of the problem, Habitat for Humanity continues to collaborate with the government of Lesotho and non-government organizations to address new needs that arise. Working through these partners increases community ownership of projects and helps ensure the sustainability of the work.
While Zambia boasts one of the fastest-growing economies not just in Africa, but also in the world, it continues to struggle with poverty. About 64 percent of all Zambians live on less than $2 each day. Because most high-income jobs are located in Lusaka, the urbanization rate is about twice the rate of population growth. Such rapid urbanization has significantly increased land and housing prices, while limiting opportunities in rural areas. Thus, many urban dwellers live in slums without access to clean water or sanitation. The country has a housing deficit of 1.3 million dwellings and this figure is project to rise to 3 million by 2025.
Habitat for Humanity has worked closely with marginalized and vulnerable communities to provide subsidized three-room housing in urban areas. Participants receive inheritance training to ensure they understand how to legally pass the housing on to their children. Families who have access to some resources can secure five-year loans through the organization as well. These loans are designated for building materials to help construct quality homes and to secure skilled construction assistance.
In addition, the Habitat for Humanity Maanzi Water and Sanitation Program helps improve access to drinking water and sanitation facilities to promote better health and hygiene. The program emphasizes the sustainable use of water supplies as well. The organization also has an advocacy team that promotes policies to improve access to land tenure, property rights, and clean water for individuals living in poverty. The team works to ensure that the Zambian government recognizes and addresses the needs of its marginalized populations.