published on 7 October 2019 in ecosystems

World Habitat Day

World Habitat Day, set by the United Nations Organisation as the first Monday in October each year, is being celebrated this year on 7 October. World Habitat Day was designated by the UN General Assembly with Resolution no. 40/202 and celebrated for the first time in 1986.  The aim of the Day is to reflect on the state of our towns and cities, and on the basic right of all to adequate shelter. Each year, the United Nations chooses a new theme for the day based on topical issues relevant to the Habitat Agenda.

As the UN Habitat Website states, the theme of the 2020 edition is “Housing For All: A better Urban Future”. Having an adequate home is now, more than ever, a matter of life and death. As COVID-19 continues to spread, people have been told to stay at home, but this simple measure is impossible for people who do not have adequate housing. At the same time, COVID-19 has reminded us that home is 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. 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.

An estimated 1.8 billion people were already living in slums and informal settlements, inadequate housing or in homelessness in our cities worldwide before the pandemic began. Some 3 billion people lack basic hand-washing facilities. This means millions of people worldwide are more likely to experience poor health due to the absence of basic services and exposure to multiple socio-economic and environmental hazards.

Structural inequalities have been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, showing how people from minorities, indigenous peoples and migrants are disproportionally affected by housing precarity. Housing is a human right and a catalyst for all other fundamental rights. It is the only way to ensure the “Right to the City for All”.

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