- The United Nations agency tasked with promoting adequate shelter for all has voiced alarm at the riots over housing and basic services that have engulfed many South African townships over the past week.
Demonstrators protesting over the state of their housing, water, electricity and sanitation services have clashed with police in townships across the country, with dozens of people arrested and large amounts of property looted or destroyed.
Daniel Blau, the Director of the Regional and Technical Cooperation Division of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), said on Friday that while food riots were not uncommon in Africa, it was unusual to have such protests for better housing and services.
“While the Government of South Africa has provided important subsidies for social housing in recent years, the global crisis affects directly the urban poor in this country,” he said.
“That crisis was ignited by the mismanagement of the United States housing finance sector. It has now an impact on the housing conditions of the African poor. Housing is increasingly at the core of economic and social development,” he also added.
The UN agency has recently committed to ensuring better protection of land and property rights for people uprooted from their homes in Africa, which hosts nearly half of the total number of displaced persons worldwide.
UN-HABITAT and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) also signed a Memorandum of Understanding earlier this month committing them to this common goal.
Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, said she hoped the new agreement will be an opportunity to “work together to mobilise resources and help the significant number of displaced persons in Africa.”
The two institutions will work together to promote the creation of proper legal and institutional frameworks so that countries can be better prepared to protect the rights of displaced populations and to find durable solutions with regards to land and property issues.
In 2008 there were an estimated 11.6 million internally displaced persons in Africa, nearly half of the total number of displaced worldwide.
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