COVID-19 Response Stories
How do you ‘stay at home’ when it’s not safe?
Whilst the timing of responses to the COVID-19 pandemic has varied, governments around the world have been consistent in calling on citizens to stay safe by staying at home.
For too many people staying home isn’t safe. 1.8 billion people worldwide live in grossly inadequate housing; often in overcrowded conditions, lacking access to water and sanitation – making them particularly vulnerable.
“Housing has become the front line defence against the coronavirus. Home has rarely been more of a life or death situation,” said Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing.
Housing is critical in breaking the cycle of poverty. Safe homes do save lives. That has always been the truth of it but it could be that this crisis reveals that truth more clearly as we all try to keep our families and communities safe.
Woreda 8 is one of Addis Ababa’s oldest neighbourhoods with more than 40,000 inhabitants. The neighbourhood has grown without a community development plan. Houses are built on available land, often in areas that are unsafe, such as unstable land alongside river. Every time it rained, the roof leaked, and when the river flooded, her home’s foundation got weaker and water collected on the floor. She didn’t have the money to repair her home or move to a new place.
Working together, the local government and Habitat Ethiopia have formed a Community Committee to identify the needs of the heavily congested area where residents live in houses built of mud and sheet metal.
“Some houses are just not appropriate for humans.”
recalls Community Coordinator Tegene Gemuchu:
“When I see such living conditions, I immediately contact Habitat for Humanity.”
Admas Stefanos, a 45-year old mother of four, has lived in Woreda 8 for over 30 years without a toilet. She and her children used to walk to a nearby river, dig a hole and hope no one saw them.
“We would go to the river because the water can wash away our dirt,” she explains. “There were no toilets in the area.”
“There are few basic services,” says Woreda 8 administrator, Desalegn Debele.
“The government is trying its best but half of the people in Woreda 8 do not have clean Water and Sanitation facilities. This leads to a variety of illnesses related to poor hygiene.”
Habitat for Humanity helped more than 5,000 people in the area through:
- construction of 30 communal toilet blocks
- construction of 59 water points
- construction of 28 communal kitchens
- renovation and repair of 22 homes
- hygiene awareness trainings.
Furthermore, through this project, new job opportunities were created in the area. “So many people, particularly the young, have been trained and now have jobs because of Habitat,” says Desalegn.
“So the impact and benefits are much greater than just building a new house.”