Egypt -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1
The Housing Need
Garbage collection area in Egypt. Many families live with the garbage they sort and recycle.
The Abdelraheem family used to live in one mud brick room. They are much happier in this Habitat for Humanity home.
With around 73 million inhabitants, Egypt is the most highly populated Arab country, vibrant with life along the mighty Nile River. But in the midst of the hustle and bustle, an estimated 20 million people are living in sub-standard housing conditions, with no means of improving their situation.
Poverty housing is particularly common in the rural areas, where many families live in old mud brick houses with dirt floors, no doors or windows, and inadequate roofs made from thatch, branches or even sugar cane.
These conditions provide little protection from the perils of snakes, insects, intruders, rain, or the extreme variations in temperature. The houses are dangerously hot in summer and below freezing temperatures in winter, and people often die from pneumonia. Access to toilets and piped water is limited, creating further health problems. Moreover, large families are often crowded into one or two rooms’ structures. Some even share their homes with their livestock or poultry.
Habitat for Humanity Egypt
Habitat for Humanity Egypt (HFHE) was founded in 1989, and has constructed or renovated houses that have turned despair into hope for thousands of families in 25 communities who were living in such conditions.
The houses are simple and affordable, yet decent and durable. They are built using appropriate, locally-available building materials, which meet specific housing requirements. Houses have cemented or tiled floors, plastered or limestone brick walls, secure wooden roofs, and enough rooms to separate parents from children and boys from girls, and families from their livestock. The access to clean water and sanitation systems, separation from animals and good ventilation all serve to improve the health of the families and their communities.
The access to clean water and sanitation systems, separation from animals and good ventilation all serve to improve the health of the families and their communities. HFHE partners with the homeowners themselves and with other NGO’s and community development associations to achieve its goal. By building on their established knowledge and insight into the community and working at the grass roots level, HFHE has experienced tremendous results over recent years and expects the rapid growth to continue.
One of the groups that HFHE is working with is communities of Garbage Collectors in Cairo. Many of the families not only live with their pigs, but also with the garbage that they sort and recycle and the vermin it attracts. HFHE helps these families to build a second floor for their own, separate accommodation, improving hygiene and health.
Another area where HFHE is making a difference is the Governorate of El-Minya, 150 miles south of Cairo. Unemployment and poverty are high there, but HFH is boosting the local economy by purchasing construction supplies, including white limestone from the quarry and employing local builders. As a result of this activity, many who would have otherwise migrated to seek work elsewhere are able to stay in the community with their families. HFHE continues to expand its work in the governorate.
In addition to its conventional housing projects, HFHE is offering no-profit loans to replace inadequate roofs with wooden ones. This change alone can create a secure home, protect families from the elements and also allow families the opportunity to build a second floor in the future.
Real Life Story
The Abd el Raheem family lived in a mud brick home consisting of one room, no bathroom and a bare dirt floor. In the words of Mona, the mother, there were “no windows, no doors, and no nothing.” Her husband, Ramadan Ahmed, a donkey cart driver said, “It gets cold in winter and we needed a shelter for our donkey.” Through a loan from HFHE, the family was able to upgrade the whole house and in addition, add a separate room for the donkey - which served to protect the family’s sole source of income. The couple’s daughter, 16-year-old Hanaan, says, “I used to feel ashamed to have my friends visit.”
The family’s living situation improved beyond recognition as a result of their Habitat for Humanity home loan. Their house now consists of three rooms with a separate kitchen and bathroom, has a sturdy, insulated roof, electricity, water and a sewage system. Nine-year-old Rhoda feels much happier about her house than before: “Now I invite others over to sleep. Our house looks so beautiful. I don’t ever want to leave it.”
With the help of committed volunteers and staff working hard and partnering at the grass-roots level, the dream of simple, decent, affordable, healthy housing is becoming reality for countless Egyptians like Rhoda and her family, one house at a time.
Location: Northern Africa
Climate: Desert; hot, dry summers with moderate winters
Population: 74.9 million
Economy: Industries include petroleum, cotton, textiles, food processing, tourism, chemicals
Religions: Islam, Christianity