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06.10.2005 General News

World Habitat Day celebrated in Accra

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Accra, Oct 6, GNA - Ghana is on record as one of the countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa with the highest rate of urban drift, leading to the development of many slums within the cities, Nana Akomea, Member of Parliament for Okai Koi South, said on Thursday.

He said people had continually migrated from the villages to the cities in search of economic opportunities, relief from poverty and in some cases escape from conflict situations.

The situation, Nana Akomea noted, had placed a burden on land and housing facilities within most urban centres.

This was contained in a speech read on his behalf by Mr Ahmed Arthur, Okai Koi Sub-metro Chairman, during the Greater Accra Regional World Habitat Day celebration held at Avenor, a slum area in Accra. Nana Akomea said most of the people within the slums lived the worst type of lives that one could imagine. "These people lack the basic amenities like water, road, health care, schools, electricity and good sanitation".

The day was celebrated under the global theme: " Millennium Development Goals and the City" with a regional theme: "Achieving Improvement in the Lives of Slum Dwellers in Accra" Nana Akomea said a recent study of slums discovered that 72 per cent of all urban dwellers in Sub-Saharan Africa now lived in slum communities.

The Constitution and land legislations, he noted, made provision for equal access to land, housing and secure tenure for both women and men.

However, the operations of the land market and the cost of leasing land had priced it out of the reach of the poor, Nana Akoma said adding that many low income groups would not ever be able to participate in the land and housing market.

He said there was no legislation to address the provision of housing for the very poor as a special group and there was also very little data on homelessness in Ghana. He said the Government's quest for a better life for slum dwellers was no easy task, considering the multi-faceted problems that engulfed them.

"Almost 50 per cent of Ghanaians are living in the cities and the migration to the cities is a daily affair, with a sizeable number of not less than 500,000 people trouping each day to Accra alone," he said. Nana Akomea said about 400,000 dwellers of Accra were known to be living in slums and the Accra Metropolitan Assembly was in the process of putting some facilities in place to upgrade a number of its slum communities.

Mrs Deborah Kuwornu, Regional Director of Rural Housing, said the Government alone could not deal with the problem of slums but needed the concerted efforts of slum dwellers, community members and development partners to deal with the problem of slums.

"This day provides an opportunity for everyone to reflect on key human settlement issues, the basic right to adequate shelter and also remind us of our collective responsibility for maintaining the earth and its resources for the future generation."

Welcoming the participants Mr Maxwell Gyimah, Okaikoi South Metro Director, said the United Nations considering the plight of people living in slums decided to set aside the first Monday of every October to remind the world of the efforts being made to improve upon the lives of people with regard to shelter.

"The essence of this celebration is not only to create awareness of the good policies available for the provision of affordable shelter to Ghanaians, but also to remind people of the already existing Housing Improvement Assistance Scheme, which was available for all."