Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Coming October 5: World Habitat Day

In order to live a healthy life, we need a safe and healthy place to live. A roof over our head, protection from the elements - that's all we really require. But for millions of people, this isn't possible.

The United Nations reports that more than 100 million people around the world today don't have such a roof over their head. They are homeless, subject to the conditions of their environment. Some are homeless because of severe poverty, others have been displaced because of war or famine. They're not safe, they're not protected from the weather. They are alone. Countless more millions do have a roof over their head, but no utilities, no running water, no electricity. We don't have to go far for these. There are people in North America who live in conditions like this.

Globally, within 20 years, 40% of the world's people, 3 billion people, will need homes. Nearly one billion people live in slum conditions. In the United States, one third of the population either don't have homes or have a difficult time managing to afford a home and its costs: one out of every three households in the U.S. spend more than 30% of their income on housing. One in seven spends more than half.

The effects on health can be devastating. A child who doesn't have a home or who lives in slum conditions is at higher risk of developing asthma, contracting viruses, becoming severely injured - or worse - in an accident, such as a fire. Chronic illnesses are common and infectious diseases and viruses, like HIV, are not uncommon.

Imagine living in a tent, with little sanitation, no privacy, nothing to do. Imagine huddling in a squatter community, trying to keep out of the rain and hoping the authorities don't come and drive you away. Imagine not being warm.

The first Monday in October has been named World Habitat Day by the United Nations. Learn what you can do to help by visiting the Habitat for Humanity World Habitat Day website.

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