“The urgency of improving living conditions has been brought to the fore by COVID-19, which has devastated the lives of millions in cities. Access to clean water and sanitation, along with social distancing, are key responses to the pandemic. Yet in slums it has proved difficult to implement these measures. This means an increased risk of infection, not only within slums, but in whole cities.” – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres
In 1985 the United Nations designated the first Monday of October every year as the World Habitat Day. The idea is to reflect on the state of the towns and cities and the basic right of all to adequate shelter. It is also intended to remind the world of its collective responsibility for the future of the human habitat. As COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, people have been told to stay at home, but this simple measure is impossible for people who do not have adequate housing. Having an adequate home is now, more than ever, a matter of life and death. Hence, the World Habitat Day 2020 theme is “Housing For All — A Better Urban Future”.
These challenging times have 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. 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.
The World Assembly of Youth (WAY) stands with young people, as they like others do have the right to adequate shelter and affordable housing. On this day, let us remind the world that young people have the power and the responsibility to shape the future of our cities and towns. We need to reflect on how we can shape the future of human settlements to be more resilient. We shall continue to advocate on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda at all levels, as well as the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.