SAN DIEGO, California — Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit organization founded in 1976 that focuses on providing people in the United States and around the world decent and affordable housing. The organization has been working in Zambia to provide homes to those in need since 1984.
Zambia’s Housing Issue
Zambia is one of the most urbanized countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. There has been a significant rate of growth in urban areas, where there is a strong lack of available housing to accommodate the growing population. Habitat for Humanity notes, “Due to the lack of affordable housing, about 70% of urban dwellers live in unplanned settlements with inadequate access to safe and clean water, sanitation, hygiene and extension facilities.”
The Center of Affordable Housing Finance in Africa also states that over two-thirds of Zambians are in a position where their income is not sufficient to afford access to quality housing. In addition, “the average household income needed to buy the cheapest house in Zambia is $36,960. Yet, the current average annual household income is only $5,102.” Low incomes in Zambia are prevalent as the unemployment rate is 15% and 64% of the population live below the poverty line.
Since beginning work in Zambia, Habitat for Humanity has provided aid in several forms not limited to housing for orphans and other vulnerable groups. Habitat for Humanity also focuses on water, sanitation and hygiene efforts. Furthermore, the organization facilitates financial literacy programs and advocacy for land and housing rights issues. Constructing houses for vulnerable groups and providing microloans are two efforts of the NGO. In 2019, Habitat for Humanity helped 9,410 people in Zambia, with 315 people benefitting from new construction.
Habitat for Humanity and Water Access in Zambia
Much of Habitat for Humanity’s efforts in Zambia are focused on access to clean water. The lack of access to clean water is not only a symptom but also a cause of the housing problem in Zambia. Despite complications in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Habitat for Humanity has still been able to make progress. In its annual report for 2020, the organization mentioned its progress in Zambia pertaining to improvements in water and hygiene. Many of Zambia’s citizens do not have running water due to the fact that they cannot afford the prices associated with connecting their homes. A private company owns the water system. In order to mitigate this, Habitat for Humanity took the initiative to install 28 water kiosks in and around Lusaka, Zambia’s capital.
These kiosks will provide the water needed for drinking, cooking, cleaning and bathing. As a result of having more direct access to running water, families save hours each day. Morrix, one of the people whose life has improved from the addition of the water kiosks said, “I spend less time on fetching water, which means that I have time to attend community meetings and spend more time with my family.” Additionally, rather than miss classes to collect water, Morrix’s son Rabson has been able to attend school more often and improve his grades.
Relief During Zambia’s Drought
Habitat for Humanity’s commitment toward bringing water to more Zambians is particularly important not only for increasing the quality of living but also because Zambia is experiencing a serious drought at the moment, which has lasted for three years already. Water has become so scarce at points that even livestock are suffering and dying.
Along with the drought, 6.3 million Zambians don’t have clean water and nearly 2,000 children under the age of five pass away each year as a result.
With this in mind, the work that Habitat for Humanity is doing is of great importance. The water kiosks not only save lives, but they help improve lives. Now that Morrix’s son Rabson is going to school and doing well, Morrix may be able to provide his son and family with more opportunities in the future. In conclusion, Habitat for Humanity and the commendable work they do highlights the importance of The Borgen Project’s mission and shows that simple changes can cause substantial positive impacts on those living in poverty.
– Sean Kenney