Housing Programmes in Zambia

Despite having one of the world’s fastest growing economies, Zambia remains one of the world’s poorest countries, with close to 64% of Zambians living under $2 a day.

Due to the lack of affordable housing, about 70% of those in cities live in unplanned slum settlements with inadequate access to safe and clean water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.

We have been helping to alleviate housing poverty in Zambia for decades, notably by working in partnership with poor and low-income families to best identify their needs.

Fighting for Beauty: Extreme Poverty & Social Exclusion in Zambia

After losing her husband, Beauty’s inlaws turned against her, and she ended up living in extreme poverty in Zambia, with 4 children and without a place to call home.

Using our programme to offer vital help to children living in poverty, as well as those suffering from social exclusion (e.g. women, the elderly, the disabled or HIV-affected people), we were able to build a home for her and her family.

“He said ‘I want to marry you’. Firstly, I refused. But later on, I said yes. I loved him, he was my husband.” 

In 1992, Beauty Sibuwani met Jeff Chandler, a smiling truck driver from a nearby village. Together they had 4 children, they lived in a nice home and had a steady income.

“He treated me very well. He was a good father and a good husband. He was very good. And I will never forget about that man, I will never… Every night, I pray for him, every day I pray for him. God bless him wherever he is.” 

On the evening of July 6th 1999, while Beauty and her family were sleeping, a group of men broke into the home. They woke the family and shot and killed Jeff, as Beauty and her children watched. Shortly after he died, Beauty was taken to her deceased husband’s rural village and was required to take part in a spiritual cleanse.

This is an old Zambian tradition, where widows are then offered to marry their departed husband’s family member, in this case, her Jeff’s brother. But Beauty refused to be subjected to that old tradition.

When she refused, the husband’s family rejected her and refused to extend any help to her or her children. To make things worse, when she returned to her home, their property had been taken away by her husband’s family. Everything was taken away from her:

  • Her furniture
  • Her bed
  • Her pots and pans
  • …Absolutely everything

She was chased out of the family home and had nowhere to go to.

Living in a tent: homeless with 4 children

After refusing to marry her husband’s brother, Beauty and her children found themselves homeless. For a few years, they were able to stay with a family friend, but eventually ended up having to move into a one-room plastic tent. They slept on the dirt floor and had to share a single blanket among the five of them.

“It was really bad, I was living in a tent with my four children. We are not safe in a tent. When the rain comes, the water gets inside our home. We are just lying in the water.” 

Homeless with 4 children, living in a tent

Fighting for socially excluded women in Zambia

As part of our Orphans and Vulnerable Group housing programme in Zambia, Beauty and her children were selected to receive a fully subsidised Habitat home.

“I didn’t know that I could have a house. For the past 10 years since my husband died, it was terrible. But when I slept in the house, I cried. I was happy, tears of [happiness].” 

Given that they now have a safe place to call home, Beauty and her children are now concentrating on improving their lives. as After everything she beenhad  through, losing her home and all of her belongings, the Habitat house has given her back hope.

“Because now I’m safe, I’m living in a house, I want to say thank you. Thank you for building me a house.” 

Find out more about our work fighting for women’s land rights in Zambia and across the world, and helping them gain the right to own land, business and property. You can also find out more about our work fighting social exclusion through housebuilding and slum rehabilitation.

One big family

Anastasia Zulu, a resident of Kamanga was born in 1982. Her husband evicted her from their matrimonial home and married another woman in 2004. She has two daughters: Irene Zimba who has a recently given birth to Angel, and Maureen who has a one-year old son named Alick.

But Anastasia also takes care of the orphaned children that her late sister left behind — Agrippa, Elisha, and Beatrice. In addition, two of her brothers currently live with her, Justin Mwanza, who suffers from  a mental disorder, and Mazala Zulu, who is currently unemployed.

The family lives on a plot of land that Anastasia’s parents left her after their death.

Making ends meet

“I wash people’s clothes for about $3 three times weekly and braid hair for $2 per client within the community”- Anastasia

There is no money left each month for savings. In times of crisis, the family seeks help from relatives and neighbours. One of the major emergencies they face every year is sickness – this adds a huge stress on the family’s limited income and well-being.

Moving into their new home

In July 2016, a team of international volunteers in Zambia constructed a three roomed house and a ventilated pit latrine for the family under the Orphaned and Vulnerable Children housing project.

Before the house had been built, the family lived in a two roomed mud house with poor roofing materials and walls. Space was a challenge for Anastasia, daughters, grandchildren, adopted nieces and nephews, and the siblings she cares for.

“I never imagined living in a safe house, thank you to the entire volunteer team for making it a reality for me”

She adds that the structure has lockable doors and window offering maximum security both in the day and night.

“In the day, we can all leave the house without worrying of someone breaking in. At night, we sleep soundlyI am so excited about the new house. It has enough space and well ventilated. It also calms me to know that my dependants particularly my adopted nieces and nephews will have roof over their head even when I am gone”.

She adds that because of the cement flooring, incidences of coughs have drastically reduced.

The family will never worry about a leaking roof in rain season as their new structure has a good quality roof. In addition, they have their own toilet to use which reduces the risk of diseases like cholera spreading in the family and in the community.

Anna Nitima’s Story

Living with her children and grandchildren

Anna Nitima a resident of Kamanga Community was born in 1972. Her husband died in 2015 in a road accident. She has three children – Thomas, Bettina and Martha.

Martha was married but divorced her husband a few years ago. She has two children, Vincent and Rody Zulu. In total, the household has six individuals. Anna and her daughter, Martha are on anti-retroviral therapy to keep their HIV infection in check.

Washing clothes to pay the bills

“I have not been well for a while so I cant work. To make ends meet, my daughter Martha washes community members’ clothes over the weekend to generate $6 monthly ” – Anna.

The money mainly goes into providing food. The family does not make any savings at the moment as they are financially struggling. In times of crisis, community members come to their aid.

“Due to my HIV status, I have been unwell and community members offer spiritual, moral and economic support” mentions Anna.

The family frequently lacks adequate food throughout the year. Their meals consist mostly of Nsima (thick porridge) and green vegetables. They prepare them on firewood or brazier using charcoal, which sometimes lead to respiratory diseases and persistent cough.

Their new home

My gratitude goes to Habitat for Humanity and the team that has made the world a better place for my family as we have decent shelter” says Anna.

In July 2016, our volunteers in Zambia built a 4-room house and ventilated improved pit latrine toilet with Anna’s help and that of the community.

Previously, the family used to stay in four roomed dilapidated mud house Anna’s parents built years ago. It had no windows and had limited space with poor roofing and flooring materials.

Anna added that the family no longer worries about the whole house leaking when it rains and that incidences of coughs have drastically reduced as the floor is dust free. In addition, the family’s safety is secured as the house has lockable doors and windows.

“We said goodbye to dusty floors the moment we moved into the house” 

The house offers a much better studying environment for Bettina who is attending Kapiriyamba primary school. Not having to worry about the leaky roof makes it much easier for her not to lose her textbooks and homework.

Because Anna couldn’t pay for her tuition fees in time earlier, Bettina couldn’t attend school which in turn caused her overall performance at tests to plummet. Now the family can start saving again to send Bettina back to school.

Promoting health in Zambian communities

Christina once drew her water from a shallow well near her home. She once made frequent and urgent trips to the doctor with her grandchildren.

The water was contaminated, and the kids were always getting sick” Christina says. “Sometimes, they would even get admitted to the hospital with severe diarrhea, with dysentery, with cholera.”

The doctor’s visits stopped after Habitat Zambia partnered with the local utility to help Christina and her community tap into pipes carrying treated water. Today, families line up with their buckets to get their water at a kiosk built by Habitat volunteers. “The children just don’t get sick anymore” Christina says.

Many people, including many children, die from not having safe water to drink. So when we talk about access to decent shelter, we have to talk about access to clean water.”— Ruth Mitimingi, Habitat Zambia acting national director.

Mary used to walk more than an hour a day to get water for her family. On days when she couldn’t go, she sent her children, which meant they missed school. Now, through the efforts of Habitat Zambia, she and her children take their buckets to a community pump right near their house.

While clean water is essential to improving health and lives, so is proper sanitation and hygiene, something especially important in large, informal settlements without basic services. The homes built by Habitat Zambia have a latrine with a washroom and toilet. “This significantly improves the living and health conditions of families” Mitimingi says.

Our collective action can save lives.

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