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An extensive project tackling interlinking issues of poverty and health, by providing basic services in homes across Guatemala, has today been named a Bronze Award Winner in this year’s World Habitat Awards.

The Healthy Homes for Humanity programme provides families living in poverty with a smokeless stove, water filter and sanitary latrine. Families are involved in the entire process and learn how to assemble, use and maintain each product. These Healthy Home Kits have already benefitted around 300,000 marginalised and vulnerable people through improved health, dignity and self-empowerment.

Poverty is a rapidly growing problem in Guatemala. Three in every five (60%) people survive on less than $4 USD per day and millions live in dangerously unhealthy conditions. Less than half of Guatemalans have access to proper sanitation services – 95% of water is contaminated as a result. Waterborne diseases cause 40% of infant mortality and more than half the population suffers from respiratory illnesses.

Habitat for Humanity Guatemala first introduced the Healthy Homes programme in 2010 to tackle these issues, with a focus on indigenous families. In one community, families experienced an 83% reduction in cases of respiratory illness within the first six months of having a smokeless stove, and an 81% reduction in cases of diarrhoea within the first year of receiving the water filter and sanitary latrine. The programme is now active across all of Guatemala’s 22 administrative departments.

Alian Sicay, a 27-year-old indigenous Kaqchikel Maya, lives with her husband and two children. She said: “Until several months ago I was cooking over an open flame that created an abundance of smoke. The smoke not only filled my small kitchen, but it filled my children’s lungs and made them cough. We had a makeshift latrine that consisted of a toilet bowl made out of wooden slabs and there wasn’t a lot of privacy. I also often wondered if the reason my family was getting sick with stomach issues was due to the poor conditions of our old bathroom.

“One day when I was having a conversation with my sister in-law about all of the problems that my family faces, she told me about Habitat for Humanity Guatemala. She put me in contact with them and I was happy to participate in different trainings so that I could learn how to use and better care for my products – a stove, a latrine, and a water filter. The best part was that my neighbours and other members of the community were going through the process at the same time – we were able to work as a team to make this project a reality.”

David Ireland, Chief Executive of World Habitat, said: “These simple, low-cost interventions have made a huge difference to hundreds of thousands of people in one of the poorest countries in Latin America.”

The World Habitat Awards judging panel said: “This is a really practical and affordable solution to improve the quality of people’s homes, embedded in the local context and culture. They are achieving basic improvements at the individual house level, and significant scale at a national level. Whilst focusing on the absolute poorest families in one of the poorest countries in South America, they are making a huge difference to the health of thousands of Guatemalans.”

Each year the World Habitat Awards are presented to the most outstanding and innovative housing projects from across the world. In 2019 almost 200 projects and programmes entered the Awards.

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