Under SDG 11, the Voluntary National Review Report of Mauritius 2019 underlines that ‘development brings long challenges such as air pollution, increasing waste, degradation of the environment, poor sanitation, housing shortages, traffic jams, among others’.
Additionally, we read that "we are experiencing more intense tropical cyclones in the region along with extreme weather conditions. As a result careful urban and infrastructure planning have a sense of urgency more than ever before. We need to improve on the resilience of our cities, villages and settlements’’.
According to the World Health Organisation, "Housing and Health Guidelines’’, the world’s urban population is expected to double by 2050 and will require housing solutions. The world’s population aged over 60 who tend to spend more time at home, will also double by 2050 (WHO 2015).
Government has come with bold decisions for the constructions of houses for different strata of the population. We have noted Government’s intention to overhaul the thorny problem of asbestos in the decades old housing compound. Inclusivity requires that those who are homeless for one reason or the other be registered for tailor-made solutions.
People may be living in houses constructed with different materials in a host of architectural models. We have listed a list of hazards that might befall older persons at any point in time:
Anybody can fall on a slippery floor and an older person who breaks a bone might be paralysed and bedridden for life. This is where we have said that for an older person to carry his/her cooking gas cylinder from the 6th floor down the ground floor it would be risky, let alone going to the shop for replenishment. One can imagine the stress and isolation an older person would suffer in such conditions.
Poor accessibility to one’s own house is often the result of ignorance, indifference and ‘am not concerned’ sort of attitude. Older persons are kept inside ‘for their own security’ whereas they would be more secure if there were more visibility around their homes with well-entertained fences and properly managed street light systems. Often times we hear that the Council (Urban and District) has been informed by concerned citizens but were still waiting for funds. In the meantime the foliage is growing thick. A very good hiding for drug peddlers. Nefarious as illustrated by how the alarm system is set off to warn of police arrival. One can imagine of the tension and pressure on the older man and woman inside the ‘morcellement, cité or settlement’.
Security of tenure: one example
We wrote earlier that somebody would go homeless for one reason or another. One of the causes is the weak security of tenure which is the central component of the right to adequate housing. WHO emphasizes that "the lack of security of tenure makes protection against forced eviction very difficult leaving the most vulnerable such as inhabitants of informal settlements, at risk of a range of human rights violations’’.
I have worked with the open-hearted inhabitants of one such informal settlement, Folles Herbes on the edge of La Ferme reservoir in Bambous motivating them to put up home gardening. These brave fellow citizens have migrated from Rodrigues to greener pastures in main land Mauritius. I refrain from writing they are living in "slum households" but for their human rights to be respected, their dignity, pride and ambition to be upheld, there is dire need to address these: Poor sanitation, unsafe electric connections, unsafe infrastructure, unlevelled rocky access, pungent smell, unsafe water.
Alternatively, provide a housing scheme that suits their needs.
Immediate Housing Environment
Older persons, specially those with an impairment, remain for hours at home, some 18 to 24 hours. They need adequate sanitation and illumination, sufficient space and safe fuel supply and connection to electricity, and protection from pollutants. When they live alone, additional attention has to be given to these.
Outside is as important as inside. This includes access to services, the local dispensary, the counter to pay utilities, the shops and market places, the local club, green spaces, transport options with a caring service, combating the psychological effect of disaster, a cyclone for that matter.
Younger people would do well to provide good living conditions to the older persons: Avoid high–level stereo music, therefore not encouraging neighborhood noise, avoid smoking in a closed space which is devoid of aeration that would cause further health inequality.
Older people’s rights are human rights.
President of the Commission for the Rights of Older People of DIS-MOI
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