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Habitat for Humanity in Asia-Pacific Marks World Habitat Day and Reports on Record Results in Helping Asian Families in Need

Habitat Programs Launch WHD Initiatives to Highlight the Need and Importance of Safe, Decent and Affordable Housing

BANGKOK, 1st October 2009: This year the United Nations’ World Habitat Day, which falls on 5th October, focuses on the need for better and more thoughtful planning to cope with the demands of rapid urbanization.

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“World Habitat Day is an opportunity to bring attention to the worldwide need for decent and affordable housing,” said Jonathan Reckford, CEO, Habitat for Humanity International.  “During World Habitat Day events, we join the many organizations that are addressing the global crisis of poverty housing with particular emphasis on the urban challenges in the world’s rapidly growing cities.”

Across the world, towns and cities are growing. Half the world now lives in urban areas. Furthermore, one in three urban dwellers – nearly one billion people, half of them in Asia – lives in an informal settlement, a shantytown or a slum. And the numbers continue to increase.

For the poor who live in overcrowded, unsafe, unsanitary, unacceptable conditions, planning must also be more equitable. To break the cycle of poverty means creating sustainable communities where people have access to affordable land and enjoy secure tenure rights.

“As a contributor to housing solutions, Habitat for Humanity has chosen to be innovative by coming up with scalable, replicable and workable shelter initiatives aimed at making communities more sustainable,” said Rick Hathaway, Asia-Pacific vice president, Habitat for Humanity International.

Every day, Habitat for Humanity programs assist families in cities and towns, as well as in rural areas, to create better lives.  In the year to 30th June 2009, Habitat, its supporters, donors and volunteers assisted a record number of families in the Asia-Pacific region. More than 27,600 families enjoyed better homes and improved living conditions – a 14 per cent increase on the previous year. Habitat programs in Indonesia, India, Philippines, Nepal and Pakistan were particularly active.

Habitat’s regular building programs contributed 66 per cent to these stellar results; 20 per cent stems from post-disaster response initiatives and 14 per cent from post-tsunami rebuilding.

Asia-Pacific World Habitat Day Events
The Habitat family is planning a slew of World Habitat Day (WHD) activities in Asia and elsewhere to highlight the basic right of every person to adequate shelter and remind the world of its collective responsibility for the future of the human habitat.

HFH Indonesia marks WHD with the launch of the “West Java Disaster Response” rebuilding project. The project is Habitat’s response to the earthquake (magnitude 7.3 on the Richter scale) that struck the area 200 km southeast of Jakarta in early September. In the first phase, 100 houses will be reconstructed. HFH Indonesia’s first target is to rebuild, renovate and repair 1,000 houses.

Through a photo exhibition by Habitat photojournalists, HFH Thailand will paint a picture of how lives of families are transformed through owning a home. The exhibition at Siam Paragon, a popular up-market shopping mall in Bangkok, will be on display from 1st to 4th October.

Aware of the urgent need for housing in their country, the leadership of HFH Sri Lanka will organize a media launch of a research report called “Defining indicators to measure adequate housing in Sri Lanka 2009” as well as a Habitat house build.

HFH Mongolia will hold a special house dedication ceremony to celebrate the estimated 200 Habitat homes built over the past summer.

HFH India intends to celebrate WHD in Bangalore with over 300 invitees, comprising corporate patrons, volunteers, government representatives and community. It will launch its 2010 Women Build project, which is expected to mobilize resources and link women donors with women savers.

Join HFH Bangladesh to symbolically celebrate WHD by wearing green and blue on 5th October. Friends of Habitat are asked to send a photograph of themselves, their friends or colleagues dressed in the said colors to mailto:habitatbdrd@yahoo.com. The photos will be posted on the HFH Bangladesh website.

Over in the U.S.A., Habitat for Humanity is holding a public policy forum, the first official event to commemorate WHD in Washington D.C. As part of this, Habitat will launch a research report on shelter that explores the benefits of homeownership for low income families will be released. Habitat for Humanity is also collaborating with the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to plan and host WHD activities. In honor of WHD, Habitat for Humanity will deliver 500 photo petitions to the U.S. White House. It is a timely reminder that when it comes to a family’s well-being, “it all starts at home.”

World Habitat Day is a special chance for Habitat for Humanity to draw attention to the need and importance of safe, decent, affordable housing. Owning a place to truly call home transforms lives.

About World Habitat Day

In December 1985, the United Nations General Assembly declared the first Monday of October to be “World Habitat Day”. The day offers a chance to reflect on the state of human settlements and the basic need everyone has for adequate shelter. World Habitat Day also serves as a reminder of our collective responsibility for the future of the human habitat.

In his message for World Habitat Day 2009 United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “At the dawn of this new urban age, we recognize the problems and we know how to tackle them. We understand perhaps more clearly than ever before that no-one can be excluded, especially the poor. On World Habitat Day, let us pledge to do our part to follow through on our plans for a better, greener, more sustainable future for our increasingly urban planet.”