What is homelessness in Malawi, Sub-Saharan African region and beyond? If you have ever pondered the definition of this question, then you are my target.
Referencing the country’s 2018 Population and Housing Census (PHC) which is funded by United Nations Population Fund (Unfpa), also referred to as population count, and Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality, unlike the two, homelessness measurement and definition vary across the globe. Suffice to say, homelessness is a global social issue that requires clear universal measurement and steadfast action.
Caused by diverse factors locally and internationally, there is little or no effort towards ending homelessness in various platforms both at international, national, institutional and individual level. Like any other social issue, it deserves a platform, not only local platforms, but synchronised global synergy which is primarily driven and championed by individual countries to foster sustainable development.
In my personal capacity, both as a citizen and human capital, homelessness is a critical social issue that affects development globally. The world is becoming more and more of a global village, a community linked towards achieving same goals, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the United Nations General Assembly. The time is now for Malawi, Sub-Saharan African region and the world to take the first step of collecting credible data leveraging the census exercise. The numbers are fundamental for driving policies and investment, economic and human resource towards ending homelessness.
Unemployment, natural disasters, gender based violence and health conditions are some factors causing homelessness in the country and beyond the borders, of course, there are numerous factors for homelessness. With less buying or negotiation power, individuals, families and communities are left without a place to call home either at night or during the day.
Malawi is not poor as the famous intra-country adage goes; we have adequate resources for all. We ought to look at the bigger picture of having a health labour force. As a country, we lose out on talent that fails to join the labour force due to homelessness that cuts across gender, age and diverse backgrounds. Some would argue that men are hugely affected by homelessness and others would choose to differ leaning more towards the vulnerable groups, women and children, the elderly and disabled, based on a human eye and experience, both are seemingly correct. However, without accurate numbers, it all dies down to mere debates.
The observation would be true for men as well with distinct behaviour perception that is combined with pride and shame to seek help. This is an attribution to African setting, with due respect, men are deemed head of households of which overtime trends have changed with a strike of modernisation and gender parity which has significantly shaped the direction for a changing world, that has witnessed women being household heads too.
Keeping in mind arguments that may arise from the degree of homelessness between urban and rural areas of which the pivotal difference denotes the quantifiable representation based on evidence approach. The village set up would arguably have lesser visible numbers due to an African Ubuntu philosophy which literally translate to “I am because we are,” and as well as “humanity towards others”, which believes that one has a home even in their state of need and to emphasise it more with a proverb that resonates with most communities of “it takes a village to raise a child”. On the other hand, the urban setting leaves no room for questioning the reality and numbers for homelessness in the country or most cities globally as evidenced by number of people sleeping in city streets day and night.
I conclude by taking a stand as an advocate for ending global homelessness, challenging you all, as a nation, institutions, communities and individuals to use and leverage local and international platforms and resources towards ending homelessness. n