The United Nations designated the first Monday of October as World Habitat Day. The day aims to raise awareness on the basic right of all to adequate shelter. This year, World Habitat Day is observed in South Africa and the world on the theme ‘Housing for All – A better Urban Future’.
It is reported by the United Nations that urban areas especially cities are now home to slightly more than half of the world’s seven billion people while current urbanisation trends indicate that an additional three billion people will be living in urban areas by 2050.
Planning a better urban future
“The purpose of World Habitat Day is to reflect on the state of our towns and cities, and on the basic right of all to adequate shelter,” reports the SA government. “It is also intended to remind the world that we all have the power and the responsibility to shape the future of our cities and towns.”
It is said that the coronavirus pandemic has reminded us that home is much more than just a roof.
“To make us feel safe and enable us to continue living, working and learning, a home needs to be secure, to allow us to access basic services and infrastructure for hygiene measures and to have enough room for physical distancing,” writes the United Nations. “It should also be located in a place that enables residents to access public green and open spaces, employment opportunities, health-care services, schools, childcare centres and other social facilities.”
An estimated 1.8 billion people were already living in slums and informal settlements, inadequate housing or in homelessness in our cities worldwide before the pandemic began. Some 3 billion people lack basic hand-washing facilities.
“This means millions of people worldwide are more likely to experience poor health due to the absence of basic services and exposure to multiple socio-economic and environmental hazards.”
In South Africa
- Urbanet reports that South Africa has 15 large cities. Among them, only one – Johannesburg – has more than five million inhabitants, while cities with up to one and up to five million people constitute the majority, with six and five cities respectively. There are three cities with populations ranging between 300 000 and 500 000.
- Johannesburg is projected to remain the most populous city until 2030, with an estimated population of almost seven million. Johannesburg as well as Pretoria and Ekurhuleni are located within the Gauteng City-Region, which is both the smallest and most densely populated province of South Africa.
- Housing and equal access to basic urban services are critical issues in South Africa, where 23% of urban dwellers are estimated to live in informal settlements.
- Johannesburg including its surrounding cities ranks 26th among the world’s largest urban agglomerations. In general, a country with young median age, most of its youth – two thirds – live in urban areas.
- Several years of drought paired with inefficient urban water management threw Cape Town in a severe water crisis in 2018, causing the city to almost run out of water.