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Habitat for Humanity International to build in three new countries

Habitat for Humanity adds three new countries, bringing total to 92
With more people living in poverty, Habitat for Humanity extends its ministry to achieve the goal of ending poverty housing around the globe

AMERICUS, Ga., Dec. 1, 2003 – Habitat for Humanity International plans to begin building soon in Suriname, Tajikistan and Rwanda, increasing to 92 the total number of countries served by the world’s largest non-profit homebuilding agency.

Within two years, the world’s largest non-profit homebuilder hopes to expand its building program to 100 nations as it continues its global mission to end poverty housing.

In Suriname, the Ministry of Housing has delivered a formal letter of intent to partner with Habitat for Humanity Suriname. This support is critical, given the need for government land donations to be successful. In addition, HFH Netherlands, and another Christian National Government Organization in the Netherlands that is also active in Suriname, have pledged support to raise funds in Europe.

The Republic of Suriname, the former Dutch Guyana, has a large territory in the northern tip of the Southern Hemisphere of Latin America. With fewer than 450,000 people, it is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world, predominantly covered by forest. It is home to numerous ethnic groups including Indigenous, African, Indonesian, Hindu, Chinese and Arab descendents, who speak no less than 15 languages.

Many families live in poverty, and the national economic situation has worsened significantly in the past 20 years. In the capital, Paramaribo, and nearby, more than 50 percent live below the poverty line. Housing is the single, greatest need in Suriname today according to the government and news media. The government estimates a need for 20,000 units (out of a total of less than 100,000 family households nationally). Twenty five percent of all housing in Paramaribo is less than 50 square meters in size. Many of the wooden houses built in the early 1900s are barely holding up.

In 1962, Rwanda gained independence from Belgium. Ethnic rivalry between the Tutsis and Hutus came to a pinnacle in the 1994 genocide, which crippled the fragile economic base and left 800,000 dead and two million displaced.

Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa, and providing for basic needs remains one of its greatest challenges. President and Maj. Gen. Paul Kagame, elected in 2003, targets hope for economic development in tourism, tea, coffee, and information technology, yet the full impact of the 1994 atrocities has yet to be determined.

In 2003, Habitat for Humanity Africa and the Middle East launched a partnership with URWEGO – an emerging Rwandan micro finance institution operated through World Relief. Identifying decent shelter as a primary need among their client base, URWEGO called upon Habitat for Humanity to partner in a one-year Home Improvement Loan (HIL) pilot project.

Through this URWEGO-driven initiative, applicants work through collectives called “URWEGO Community Banking” groups. These groups are eligible to participate in the HFH Home Improvement Loan after successfully completing five loan cycles with reasonable success. Families within the groups must also meet requirements, which ensure their need and credit-worthiness. Once eligibility requirements are met, Habitat for Humanity will work to train and facilitate family selection, and provide technical expertise to more than 280 qualified families in Kigali and the rural zones of Rwanda.

Habitat for Humanity International, in partnership with Shelter for Life International (formerly Shelter Now), has worked in Tajikistan since 1998. The project began in Kurghon-Teppa, by building 15 homes in partnership with families in need. In 2001-2002, 42 homes were built and dedicated in Khujand.

In April 2003, the Ministry of Justice officially registered Habitat for Humanity Tajikistan Foundation as a foundation. Explorations for partnership opportunities are under way with other international and local NGO’s active in Khujand and Tajikistan. Habitat for Humanity International – Europe and Central Asia is negotiating with Shelter for Life International to prolong the present partnership.

Tajikistan’s economy has had difficulty recovering from the loss of U.S.S.R. markets and subsidies. By 1998, the inflation rate had risen to 46 percent, and with the lower per capita gross domestic product among the former Soviet republics, the poverty rate continues to climb.

The Civil War (1992-1997) severely damaged the already weak economic infrastructure and caused a sharp decline in industrial and agricultural production. Eighty percent of the people in Tajikistan continue to live in abject poverty. 50,000 people died during the war, with every one of ten homes destroyed and more than 600,000 left homeless.

Habitat for Humanity International is a Christian ministry dedicated to eliminating poverty housing. Founded in 1976 by Millard Fuller, along with his wife, Linda, Habitat for Humanity International and its affiliates in more than 3,000 communities in 92 nations have built and sold more than 150,000 homes to partner families with no-profit, zero-interest mortgages. For more information about Habitat for Humanity International, please visit the web site at