Central African Republic -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1
Central African Republic
The Housing Need
Guy used to live with his family in this house, whose roof required constant repair. Small windows let in little light, making it difficult for Guy to study.
Having a decent HFH house has increased Guy’s hope for the future and helped his education, which he now values as a way of improving his social status.
Located approximately 500 miles north of the equator, the Central African Republic (CAR) is one of the ten poorest countries in the world. The country have been unstable since independence from France in 1960 which over the following three decades were succeeded by a series of coups; political oppression under military rule, and frequent political unrest. A decade of civilian rule ended with another coup in 2003. Finally, in May 2005 a democratically elected government was sworn in.
The CAR is a landlocked country with little or no industrial base. Most commodities are imported, making the cost of living very high. The proceeds from the country’s precious natural resources, including diamonds and timber, have not benefited the majority of the people.
During three years (2000-2003) of armed conflict, many houses were burnt down, leaving thousands of families homeless. Lack of housing therefore remains one of the greatest obstacles towards rebuilding this conflict ridden country: Infrastructure and public transport are extremely poor or non-existent and good quality building materials are not readily accessible.
Most houses are small and round with one room and are made of mud and wattle, covered by straw and bamboo roofs which require constant repair. These homes are vulnerable to harsh weather conditions, and serve as a host to rodents, inviting disease into homes. The tiny houses are also overcrowded, as families unable to afford rented accommodation move in with their relatives. In rural areas, families have an average of five children and some have as many as twelve.
Habitat for Humanity Central African Republic (HFHC) Closed Program
Habitat for Humanity (HFH) worked in the CAR from 1991until 2005, when the difficult political situation made it impossible to continue work. HFHC built more than 530 houses in 8 affiliates representing 23 rural villages. The program began in the central region, before expanding to the eastern and western regions and ultimately worked in 5 of the country’s 16 districts.
The houses built by HFHC measure 6 x 5.5 sq. meters (18 x 16.5 sq. ft.) and consist of two or three bedrooms, a lounge and an outside latrine. HFHC used only local building material and culturally appropriate technology to build houses. The program actively sought innovative strategies to reduce house costs and introduced various schemes to reach more people in need of housing.
• In 2000, HFHC oversaw the construction of 35 houses for leprosy patients;
• In 2004, a youth volunteer program was developed among university and secondary school students, and
• HFH CAR promoted income-generating activities and HIV/AIDS awareness through educational workshops in its affiliates.
Fourteen year old Guy lived in a thatched house in Lihou Kembe (see picture). When asked about his family’s new Habitat for Humanity home, he replied:
“With our old house, I had to carry thatch every year to repair the roof and I really hated it. The house had very small windows because of the lack of wood. There was no living room, so I could not study in the house. With the new house, I have my own bedroom with a window, so I can study there. I can also study in the sitting room because my parents have now bought a table and chairs, and my education has improved. I hope to go to secondary and high school and become an architect to build better houses in the cities and even abroad. I know now how important a good house is for children. I am proud of my parents and no child can mock me because my father is the only one in the village to have such a bad house.”
The HFHC program changed Guy’s perspective. Owning a decent house has increased his hope for the future, by providing an environment conducive to study Guy is now able to pursue his dream. He values his education as a way of improving his social status.
Location: Central Africa
Population: 3.9 million
Economy: Subsistence agriculture, forestry, diamonds, timber, cotton, coffee, tobacco
Religions: Christianity, Islam, indigenous beliefs
Languages: French, Sangho, indigenous languages