HABITAT for Humanity Zambia national director Mathabo Makuta has called on government to improve the living conditions in unplanned settlements in addressing the COVID 19 pandemic in Zambia.

In a statement, Makuta stated people living in unplanned settlements were more susceptible to COVID-19 because of their living conditions and policy makers needed to expedite the improvement of living conditions like access to clean water.

“Habitat for Humanity Zambia is urging decision makers to pay urgent attention to informal settlements, which are often densely populated and have inadequate housing and limited access to water, sanitation and hygiene facilities needed to stop the spread of the COVID 19 disease. Crowding has been associated with elevated risk of respiratory infection, increasing the opportunity for cross-infection among family members and within communities.Globally, an estimated 1.6 billion people live without adequate shelter, including nearly 1 billion living in informal settlements. Some 2.2 billion people live without improved sanitation and 2 billion are affected by water stress,” Makuta said.

“In Zambia, there is a housing deficit of 1.5 million and 40 percent of the population have inadequate access to clean safe water. The figure is even higher for sanitation and hygiene.In light with the current COVID 19 pandemic, people living in unplanned settlements are more susceptible to the disease because of their living conditions. Habitat for Humanity Zambia therefore recommends policy makers to take the following urgent actions; Government at all levels, local and national to include protections and support for access to safe, adequate and affordable housing; and access to clean safe water, sanitation and hygiene in their responses to COVID-19.”

She stated that government needed to ensure adequate housing remained a priority.

“Decision makers to consider policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic that: ensure adequate housing remains a priority and option for all; recognize the multiple ways in which housing is financed at the household level, including access and protection for micro-finance loans; recognize tenure security along the continuum of land rights; incorporate participation of the communities they are trying to serve; and facilitate the ability of communities to build back better and more resiliently,” she stated.

“Government to consider the needs of residents in communities and to consider contextually appropriate solutions for those living formally and informally, including: eviction bans to help tenants struggling to pay rent; cash benefits as direct support for struggling families; banning utility shut offs of electricity, heat, and water so that people are safe in their homes; and addressing the hygiene and shelter needs of the homeless.”

Makuta stated that the country could not afford to wait as availability of water, sanitation and hygiene facilities including adequate housing were a first line of defense against the COVID 19 outbreak.

“We cannot afford to wait. Availability of water, sanitation and hygiene facilities including adequate housing are a first line of defense against the COVID 19 disease. As Habitat for Humanity Zambia, we have been complimenting government’s efforts to provide safe, clean water to the urban poor in form of boreholes, open and closed communal water kiosks under the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene-WASH program,” stated Makuta.

“59 public water points benefiting about 47, 604 individuals in Chilanga, Lusaka, Chongwe, Kabwe and Ndola Districts have been installed so far since 1984. Furthermore, through the Orphaned and Vulnerable Group Housing program targeting the aged, orphans and people with disabilities, more than 3, 844 decent shelters have been constructed. Therefore,we calling for the civil society organizations and policy makers to put access to clean safe water, sanitation and hygiene; and adequate housing in unplanned settlements at the heart of actions plans in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic in Zambia.”