Known as one of the world’s largest exporters of coffee and palm oil, Côte D’Ivoire was at one point one of the strongest economies in Western Africa. Now, ravaged by civil war and extreme poverty, homelessness is one of the largest issues in the country.
Homelessness in Côte D’Ivoire is a complicated topic with underlying issues that date back to its 2010 election. The result of this election was political unrest. Some 220,000 people were forced to flee the Western Côte D’Ivoire due to village raiding and the execution of those opposing the new president. The UN Refugee Agency has brought back around 33,700 Côte D’Ivoire refugees from Liberia since 2011; about 400, additionally have returned from Guinea. Others have come back on their own. Returning refugees face housing and land insecurity, compounded by the existing tension between ethnic and political enemies within the country.
Additionally, the government has evicted many people due to flooding in areas such as Abidjan, the country’s urban center, leaving thousands homeless. Returning refugees, in addition to those forced out from their homes, struggle to stay with anyone who can accommodate them while they try to rebuild their lives. Since land ownership agreements in Côte D’Ivoire are predominantly verbal and not controlled by the government, it is uncertain what land belongs to which factions. This often causes land disputes and makes it difficult to find land to rebuild on. A lack of land is one of the driving forces behind the returning refugee housing crisis, as well as other homelessness in Côte D’Ivoire.
There are two main types of homelessness in Côte D’Ivoire. The first occurs when people are homeless because they are landless. The second problem arises among those who live in improper temporary housing. These temporary houses are often made of mud with wooden frames or are poorly constructed from bricks. Made with thatching, the roofs may have disease-carrying insects, such as malaria mosquitoes and tsetse flies. Since these houses are overcrowded by the homeless, poor ventilation and the spread of disease are common issues. In rural areas, about 90% of people live in these improper and temporary housing structures. Only 18.1% of the households possess a pit latrine, and 92.5% of households use unsafe drinking water.
While the government’s Post-Crisis Assistance Program has rebuilt/restored 687 houses in 2012 through World Bank funding, the cumulative housing deficit in Côte d’Ivoire was estimated at 600,000 units in 2015. In Abidjan alone, the housing deficit is around 40,000 units per year.
Habitat for Humanity in Côte d’Ivoire helps build homes and latrines using local resources. The Overseas Aid & Development Commission, which distributes money from the States of Guernsey to charities undertaking development and humanitarian work, has funded Habitat for Humanity to aid homelessness in Côte d’Ivoire. They are using the funds to improve the health and living conditions of the extremely poor and homeless. The objective of this project is to improve access to sustainable sanitation and hygiene services by rehabilitating water pumps and latrines and distributing hygiene kits. This is all done in accordance with the local authorities and governments. Habitat also works to mobilize local communities to collect resources, spread information and foster cooperation among leaders of diverse communities; this empowers them to maintain the rebuilt infrastructure.
– Giulia Silver