A house with running water is not too much to ask

23 August 2021 | Opinion

Windhoek • Dr John Steytler

The articles that I recently penned regarding poverty have all focused on facts, figures and statistics, looking at the causes of poverty and trying to explain that there are many facets to poverty.
One thing I want to avoid is to just talk about the problems and challenges without engaging possible solutions. Pointing out flaws is easy, but being able to give tangible ideas and solutions to help fix issues and eradicate drivers of poverty, is where the mammoth task lies.
Hopefully as a nation we are ready to take on this task and tackle poverty on every level as a collective effort. We can help fulfil almost every Namibian’s dream of having their own proper house with modern sanitation.
One of the major factors of poverty is a lack of decent housing and sanitation. It acts as a driver to so many indicators of poverty.
Abraham Maslow wrote about this in his 1943 paper “A theory of Human Motivation” about the Pyramid of Needs. The most basic of which for humans to survive are basic physiological needs. These are fairly apparent especially if you look at your own life. They include the things that are vital to our survival. Some examples include food, water, breathing and homeostasis.
This really is the bare minimum we need to survive and not really what we can or should be aiming for as a nation. We need to be able to provide every person in Namibia with these needs and more.
This means that Namibians should have housing, and it has to be something more than a roof or wall made of rudimentary or make-shift materials. Having a solid house with a roof gives us a level of security against the elements, self-respect and ability to fend for ourselves.
The need for water is such that we cannot demand anything less than modern plumbing and sanitation. The pandemic has shown us how vital good sanitation is. This means that it is not a pump or single tap or toilet shared with other households as the United Nations SDG 6 goal stipulates when talking about clean water and sanitation.

Immeasurable impact
It seems obvious that housing and sanitation will lead to less poverty, but the impact that housing and sanitation have is immeasurable. They contribute to decreasing other levels and indicators of poverty. Having shelter, having electricity and sanitation means that education improves and so does hygiene, leading to less diseases and infections.
Covid-19 has shown us and the world how essential the need for proper access to modern sanitation for is. No part of the population is safe, if we are not all safe. Another motivating factor for providing housing and sanitation is that it will positively impact Namibia. An educated populace that is free from disease and infections, is a socio-economic catalyst for positive change.
If we truly want to tackle poverty, not just one aspect, we need to work together; not just assume government will simply provide houses. We need to collectively work in Public Private Partnerships to see how we can most easily and swiftly overcome the housing and sanitation challenges that Namibia faces.
This means that access to land, ownership of housing and land as well as using local material and know-how to create housing and develop sanitation is essential. We need to rely on ourselves as a nation to effectively combat the housing and sanitation challenges and dimensions of poverty that we face. We need to declare housing a human right and we need to look at new ways of financing housing so that it is in reach of more people. Not just the happy few. We need to continue with the projects in the housing sector that have borne fruit and organisations like the National Housing Enterprise (NHE) need to continue to be stimulated.
The positive change will be swift and visible. Its impact will play a huge part in eradicating major drivers of poverty.
*This opinion piece was written in Steytler’s personal capacity as an economist.

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