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Freezing weather stresses the need for decent homes

February 6, 2012

BRATISLAVA (February 6, 2012) – Habitat for Humanity calls on local authorities and municipalities to take extra measures to protect the most vulnerable groups of population in the extreme cold wave that has gripped parts of Central and Eastern Europe.

It is estimated that more than 200 people died or suffered in Siberia-level temperatures that dropped down to minus 20 and 30 C. Heavy snowfalls covered parts of southern Europe. In Bosnia, remote mountain villages were cut off from the public transport and a state of emergency declared in the capital, Sarajevo. Some neighborhoods reported water shortages and residents struggled to reach the shops to buy food.

Ukraine had the greatest death toll with more than 120 people freezing to death when the temperatures fell to -30C. Most people suffered from hyperthermia or frostbite. In Belarus, hospitals in the capital Minsk saw inpatients figures rising. Similar news came from Poland, eastern areas of Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania. Heavy snow also covered the Mediterranean coastline.

This extreme cold wave stressed the need for simple and decent housing in the region. Many underprivileged groups, like Roma, live in homes and shacks that lack access to central heating. Heating is not properly working in many rural areas.

Another common issue exacerbated by freezing temperatures is energy efficiency, share Habitat experts. Many multi-apartment buildings were constructed from pre-fabricated and low quality materials. These homes are ill-suited for cold weather conditions. Governments, local authorities and tenants themselves need to pay more attention to the reconstruction and upgrading of these homes.

At the same time, it is important to equip homeless people with possibilities to spend nights in shelters and not on the streets where they become the first victims of cold.

About Habitat for Humanity International
Habitat for Humanity International is a global nonprofit Christian housing organization that seeks to put God’s love into action by bringing people together to build homes, communities and hope. Since 1976, Habitat has served more than 500,000 families by building and improving homes; by advocating for fair and just housing policies; and by providing training and access to resources to help families improve their shelter conditions. An estimated 17,000 of these families are in Europe and Central Asia, where Habitat has been active since the mid-1990s. For more information, to donate or to volunteer, please visit www.habitateurope.org.