A population of around 165 million and a growing rate of 6 percent annually makes Bangladesh one of the most populous countries in the world. According to the World Bank, at least 400,000 people move from rural areas to Dhaka, the capital of the country, every year. Predictions show that by 2030 the population of Bangladesh will be 186 million people—55.1 percent of which will be living in slums. The informal settlements surrounding Dhaka, are overpopulated and characterized by lack of water, sanitation and hygiene, or WASH services, and adequate and sustainable housing.
In order to reverse the trend of rising levels or urban poverty, Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh is advocating on behalf of those who lack adequate housing conditions.
Habitat Bangladesh was launched in 1999. Since then, it has served nearly 16,032 families under housing, WASH, disaster and urban programs, and has aided another 91,235 individuals through trainings. Habitat Bangladesh works to increase community resilience through improved access to the ongoing use of and maintenance of water, sanitation and drainage facilities. It also fosters sound relationships between service benefactors and urban slum communities to ensure cooperation in providing and maintaining essential services.
In order to carry out these projects, Habitat Bangladesh first conducts research on the conditions of the informal settlements it works in. There are many hurdles when it comes to improving living conditions in Dhaka, such as the effects of climate change, gender discrimination, lack of formal land rights and more. Considering how each slum area is affected by different barriers, permits Habitat Bangladesh in creating a more clear and robust plan to begin incrementally upgrading slums.
Habitat Bangladesh takes a multifaceted approach in working towards its slum upgrading objectives. Recognizing existing efforts by other organizations to improve conditions, Habitat Bangladesh created a Geographic Information Systems, or GIS, map and database for 25 informal settlement areas in Dhaka as a tool to improve coordination across organizations. Through the establishment of an information system utilizing stakeholder engagement, organizations can collaborate on their advocacy efforts to ensure their efforts are best used to improve living conditions for the largest amount of people. The database and maps are accessible to all urban stakeholders as a basis for their respective programming, advocacy and policy initiatives and promotes optimum resource allocation.
Another strategic approach Habitat Bangladesh utilized was considering the social environment of the informal settlements which surround Dhaka. Often times when housing conditions are improved residents are negatively impacted because the owners of these settlements increase rent. Habitat Bangladesh works to overcome this barrier in two ways. Firstly, by working with the owners of informal settlements, so they do not increase rent for a certain period of time; thus, ensuring that the informal settlers are the ones who truly benefit. Secondly, Habitat Bangladesh focuses on improving the infrastructure within communities versus the structure of individual living spaces, and has built resilience in 14 slums through slum upgrading projects. By creating a long-term development plan that began in 2012, Habitat Bangladesh is improving infrastructure within slum settlements surrounding Dhaka and has created 51 community sanitary latrines, 13 bathhouses and nine water collection points.
Urban development is one of the concentrations of the Habitat Bangladesh program. Through advocacy efforts the informal settlers in slum areas around Dhaka benefited from improved living conditions and health, access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities, waste management systems, and a reduced threat of eviction.
Habitat Bangladesh believes that a long-term focus is essential and plans to initiate many follow up efforts to ensure the continuity of these successes.