World Habitat Day: Call to sanitised living environment

The Global Observance of World Habitat Day (WHD), held on the theme: Resilient urban economies : Cities as drivers of growth and recovery, was held in Baku, Azerbaijan on October 2, 2023.

World Habitat Day is marked on the first Monday of October each year and is recognised by the United Nations to reflect on the state of towns and cities, and on the basic right of all to adequate shelter.

The day is also intended to remind the world that everyone has the power and the responsibility to shape the future of towns and cities.

It is also a global observance aimed at raising awareness of the importance of sustainable urban development, adequate housing, and access to basic amenities.

This annual event provides an opportunity to reflect on the state of our cities and towns and to advocate positive changes that promote better living conditions for all.

WHD calls for action to address housing challenges, urban inequality, and environmental sustainability.

Established by the United Nations to draw attention to the need for sustainable urban development and adequate housing for all, WHD serves as a reminder of the global commitment to create inclusive, safe, and resilient cities and communities.

Indeed, the commemoration of the day serves as a reminder to the haphazard development of our cities, with access to basic amenities still being a great challenge to many a city dweller.

In our capital cities, all across the country, accessing potable water, good sanitation and proper hygiene is still fraught with numerous challenges.

Challenges brought about by residents themselves as well as duty bearers who have shirked their responsibilities.

Dwellings are put up in many places, both authorised and unauthorised, not according to laid down procedure, and sometimes on water and road paths, thus obstructing water flow when it rains and also making those places inaccessible when there is an emergency.

Our towns and cities have become concrete jungles as all available spaces have been sold out for dwellings – no parks or green spaces for recreation and relaxation.

The least said about our road networks, the better, as we are very deficient in proper roads as a country.

Some of the reasons are poor construction, the government alone taking the responsibility of constructing our roads as per our current laws, the lack of maintenance and the abuse of the infrastructure by the users when they are put in place.

Slums have developed in Accra and in all our major cities, thereby resulting in sanitation challenges, inequality in living conditions, exclusive, unsafe, and non-resilient cities and communities.

Why must we abandon housing projects such as Saglemi and others while we embark on others, when many citizens are still not properly housed and are struggling to pay exorbitant rents to Shylocks who have arrogated to themselves the role of landlords.

In other jurisdictions, once a citizen attains adulthood, he or she is entitled to a well-constructed place of abode, while we still grapple with a place to lay our heads even in old age, resulting in so much inequality and desecration of the environment, because landowners will even sell water bodies for developments of any kind.

As rightly put by the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, while this year’s World Habitat Day focused attention on ‘Resilient Urban Economies’ and the potential of cities as drivers of inclusive, green, and sustainable growth, cities must confront a range of challenges – from economic shocks and escalating climate emergencies to widening inequalities, to fulfil this promise.

Building greater resilience and a better protection of vulnerable populations require far greater investments in sustainable infrastructure, early warning systems, and affordable, adequate housing for all.

At the same time, we must work to improve access to electricity, water, sanitation, transport, and other basic services – while investing in education, skills development, digital innovation, and entrepreneurship.

Local action is vital, and global cooperation indispensable.

Let us all pledge to build inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable human settlements for all people everywhere and thus promote dignified living among all classes of society.

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