Regional profile: Europe and Central Asia
If you would like to make an impact in Europe and Central Asia, consider planning a Global Village trip to:
Habitat builds in several other countries in this region. If you are interested in a Global Village trip to a country not featured here, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Habitat’s work in Europe and Central Asia
Habitat for Humanity is active in 19 European and Central Asian countries. The region is actively fundraising, building and renovating homes with families in need.
The privatization of public housing in Eastern Europe and Central Asia has created challenges that are unique to the ECA region. In the 15-year transition to a market economy, this privatization happened differently in each country, but the effect has been the same: a radical impact on the accessibility of affordable housing and the slow deterioration of existing housing stock.
Habitat for Humanity ECA has responded in two ways: with programs that enhance access to housing credit and by renovating existing condominium-style buildings, working with homeowners to organize themselves and ensure continued maintenance of the building.
Microfinance and repairs to existing housing stock
Several home repair-focused microfinance projects blossomed in 2007, most notably in Macedonia, where two thriving microloan partnerships continue to be the leading examples in the region. One earned worldwide honors for its innovation. A pilot microfinance program with Kompanion in Kyrgyzstan served 33 homeowners in its first year, and efforts are underway in Hungary and Bulgaria to develop similar lending programs.
Responding to and mitigating disasters
Like other parts of the world, Europe and Central Asia have endured natural disasters that leave vulnerable families without decent housing long after the cataclysm. In Tajikistan, Habitat and Oxfam Great Britain completed 130 homes in communities where more than 1,000 people were left homeless after earthquakes in August 2006. After a September flood in the Dolj region of Romania, Habitat implemented a disaster-recovery project with UNICEF that targets 100 homes by August 2008.
Habitat for Humanity is doing more than working with low-income families after a disaster, however. It is also working with them to make their homes capable of withstanding possible future disasters. For example, in Tajikistan, Habitat and its volunteers are building houses that are seismically stable by incorporating locally-grown mulberry branches into construction. The branches reinforce mud walls to help houses withstand tremors that often strike the area.
ECA by the numbers
- The general affordability of housing in Central and Eastern European countries has decreased sharply since the mid-1990s.
- The United Nations estimates that 40 percent of all urban housing in Romania is of low-quality, pre-fabricated construction, with aging infrastructure and utilities in need of urgent investment. In Kyrgyzstan, only 16.8 percent of the rural population has access to running water in their homes.
- HFH ECA completed 1,302 new houses, renovations and repairs in fiscal year 2007.
“Habitat builds houses and builds consciences in equal parts. These projects rebuild the idea of human solidarity, an idea that communism attempted to destroy in my country. Habitat builds the solidarity of those who help, but—even more—builds up a sense of dignity in the ones that are helped.”
—Dr. Emil Constantinescu, former president of Romania
“As the week progressed, we realized that our reason for being there was not simply to ‘build a house.’ It was to live with the people, to talk with them and learn from them, to share a common vision and to work together to see this vision materialize. This experience has changed me.”
—Global Village volunteer on an ECA trip