Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Housing standards improving but one quarter still in unsuitable homes

One quarter of Myanmar’s population still occupies low-quality homes with inadequate living conditions, according to a report on housing conditions and amenities by the government and UNFPA, formerly the United Nations Fund for Population Activities.

Government housing units at Min Ma Naing in Yangon. Aung Myin Ye Zaw/The Myanmar TimesGovernment housing units at Min Ma Naing in Yangon. Aung Myin Ye Zaw/The Myanmar Times

The August 11 report on living conditions of households in Myanmar uses data from the 2014 Myanmar Population and Housing Census.

“There is an urgent need to holistically address Myanmar’s housing challenges. We need to look at all aspects of living conditions including health, sanitation, electricity, communication, transportation and safety,” said Mr. Janet Jackson, UNFPA representative for Myanmar.

“When defining a unit suitable to live in, space is also a key element. People need homes that offer privacy for families and couples,” he added.

Not up to standard

The report also revealed that more than 80pc of households still use traditional and unsustainable energy sources, particularly firewood, for cooking, mainly in the rural areas.

While two thirds of the population enjoys clean water, the remaining third, a total of 16 million residents, still have no access to safe drinking water. Diarrheal diseases that are commonly spread by contaminated water kill more children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined, according to global data.

About three quarters of households had access to improved sanitation, with the proportion being higher in urban areas than in rural areas. Even though Myanmar’s access to improved sanitation is slightly above the Southeast Asian regional average of 72pc, in rural areas like the Rakhine State, just a little over a third of households had access to proper toilets and sanitation facilities that separates feces from human contact.

On the whole, close to a third of the population atill has no access to clean water. Photo - UNFPAOn the whole, close to a third of the population atill has no access to clean water. Photo - UNFPA

Home ownership

Although home ownership is high in Myanmar till 85.5 percent, only 14.6 percent of household heads aged under 35 own the home they live in, said Mr. Janet Jackson.

“Many young people, especially those with family responsibilities, need the stability and security of a home as much as older people do. The Census data on housing calls for deliberate interventions, such as improved access to mortgages for people of all ages”, he said.

According to the report, there were 10.8 million conventional households in Myanmar in 2014, representing a 67 percent increase from the 6.5 million households recorded in 1983. With a total population of 47.9 million in conventional households, the average household size was 4.4, which was a noticeable decline from the average of about five during the period 1983 to 2001, the report noted.

Myanmar’s average household size is slightly higher than that of most neighbouring countries, except the Philippines. More than 40pc of the country’s households comprised couples living with children, while 17.2pc of couples lived with children and relatives.

Based on an estimate of the number of homeless people and those living in other collective quarters, and the number of households living in deficient and extremely deficient living conditions, a total of 3.8 million new home units are needed to ensure the entire population has proper shelter.