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World Population Day

Asia is facing a shelter crisis as its population continues to grow with 500 million people already living in slums. That figure is set to grow to a staggering 840 million people by the end of the decade, according to Habitat for Humanity Australia.

On the eve of World Population Day (July 11), the world’s largest not-for-profit housing provider is warning the number of people living in substandard, slum conditions across the globe will reach two billion over the next twenty years.
And it warns Asia, with a rapidly growing population, will be hit the hardest, impacting Asia’s economic growth and social stability and in turn potentially impacting Australia’s economic health.
“More than half of the world’s 7 billion people live in Asia and the region’s population is growing at such a rate its population will top five billion by 2050,” Habitat for Humanity Australia’s CEO, Martin Thomas, says.
“Today 60% of people living in slums are in Asia, the problems are becoming critical and they will only get worse if we don’t start to take decisive action.”
Mr Thomas said Australia’s overseas aid policies must include ways to tackle the crisis in safe, stable shelter in Asia. He said this would be consistent with the government’s focus on the region and its emphasis on encouraging economic growth.
“The fear is that if aid helps facilitate big infrastructure projects in Asia, as part of a policy to encourage economic growth, this could actually exacerbate the shelter crisis as people are often forced off their land and out of their homes to make way for roads, buildings, tourism resorts and other building work,” Mr Thomas said.
“Getting shelter right in these countries is also critical to making them more disaster resilient – by ensuring people have better shelter they are more likely to survive natural disasters such as cyclones and flooding.”
Habitat for Humanity Australia has called on the government to set up a special disaster resilience fund for Australian NGOs dedicated to working on challenges associated with growing slum settlements in the context of the ‘urbanisation of poverty’ and the increasing incidence of natural disasters.
The Australian government should also add its support for ‘inclusive, safe and sustainable cities and human settlements’ to be included in the revamped global development goals. These Sustainable Development Goals will lay the foundation for the global development agenda for the next 15 years.
The United Nations working group on the sustainability goals has now presented its first draft of recommendations. They include the call for universal access to adequate, affordable housing and basic services, and to eliminate slum-like conditions everywhere.
“This is a step in the right direction and would correct a flaw in the Millennium Development Goals that failed to give housing issues a high enough priority. Eradicating poverty will not happen without eliminating substandard housing,” Mr Thomas said.

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