In one way or another, all countries of the Latin America and Caribbean region are focusing their attention on strategies to combat homelessness. However…
Invariably, natural disasters in cities kill or injure members of low-income groups disproportionately because the poor often live in unsafe housing on land susceptible to flooding or landslides…
- available data indicate that the percentage of urban residents living in informal arrangements varies between 59% in Bogota, 50% in Caracas and Quito, and 40% in Mexico City and Lima. In San Paulo, some 50% of the population live in informal shelter arrangements, some 22% reside in ‘favelas’;
- in Brazil, in the last 10-15 years, hyperinflation and housing shortages forced many people out of stable homes and they have taken to the streets, sometimes as whole households. It became common from then on to see households ‘privatising’ blocks of space on the sidewalks or in the parks, much as the hillsides and periphery were settled in the past.
- according to the Demographic Census of 2000, 1.6 million housing units are located in precarious settlements, including slums or favelas, where 6.6 million people live. Homelessness is growing. An estimated 10,000 people sleep in the streets of the São Paulo metropolitan area, while 2,500 are homeless in the city of Rio de Janeiro;
- in Colombia, according to the US State Department’s country report on human rights released March 2002, between 275,000 and 347,000 people fled their homes in 2001 as a result of violence and instability in rural areas, with roughly 1/4 of these movements occurring in massive displacements (2 million). As a consequence, homelessness is rampant. Globally, only two countries have more displaced nationals than Colombia: Sudan with 4 million and Angola with 2.3 million;
- street children struggle in cities around the globe. But in Haiti, in the Caribbean region, the Western Hemisphere's poorest, the problem of homelessness among children is especially severe. Some experts say the situation has worsened in recent years amid Haiti's political turmoil;
- according to the housing and population census conducted in 2000, Mexico had 21.5 million housing units for 22.3 million households. More than 60% of the housing stock is self-produced, poor quality housing. The absolute housing deficit stood at 756,000 units as of 2000. No data are available about homelessness. For the period between 2010 and 2030, the housing demand is expected to grow further to 800,000 units per year; (1)
- in Peru, it is estimated that the political violence which prevailed in the country between 1980 and 1993 produced around 600,000 internal displaced persons from the conflict areas: 1/3 of these people have settled in the vicinity of Lima, often in areas without access to services and without security of tenure;
- Lima is a city of 6.3 million people (7.5 million, the entire metropolitan area). The wave of landless, homeless people coming into the city has also resulted in the sprouting of pueblos jovenes (young towns) or slum communities that now comprise 40% of the city. There are 598 pueblos jovenes; most of them spring up unplanned and without government assistance. (L)
- many cities are especially vulnerable to floodingand storm damage because they were established in coastal areas, along routes most suitable for trading;
- urban poverty also has an increasing environmental dimension as poor people themselves can become a cause of ecological deterioration as they may over-exploit natural resources and neglect environmental quality in the face of more urgent needs, such as the food and basic shelter needed for another day’s survival. This, in turn, can perpetuate natural disasters and intensify their impact and increase the resulting homelessness;
- a rare category-5 hurricane - Hurricane Mitch - hit Central America over a three-day period at the end of October 1998. It hit Honduras and Nicaragua hardest. In Honduras, the damage was severe and extensive. Initial statistics indicated that over 6,000 people were killed, 11,000 were missing, nearly 20% of the nation's 5.3 million people were rendered homeless, 60% of the country's infrastructure and over 70% of its crops were destroyed;
- after Hurricane Mitch’s devastations (leaving 200 dead and over 30,000 homeless), in January and February 2001, two major earthquakes struck El Salvador. The official number of homeless after the earthquakes is 1,532,919, which is to say, more than 25% of the population lost their homes. The people most affected have been the poor who before the earthquakes were already living in precarious and inhumane conditions. (2)
- on December 1999, floods and mudslides brought on by heavy rains in the northern and central coast of Venezuela left an estimated 30,000 dead or missing and up to 600,000 homeless. Almost half the country was devastated and never completely recovered. Most of these casualties were in the Caracas metropolitan area, where highly vulnerable squatter settlements perched on steep hillsides were severely affected by mudslides.
(1) Miloon Kothari, “Report of the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living. Mission to Mexico”, UNHCHR, 27 March 2003.
(2) Source: “Project Madrid Document”, official document the government of El Salvador presented in Madrid.