By Kingsley U.N Chikwendu
Housing is critical to a nation’s economic growth, without it, there will just be empty lands all over. Nigeria is the largest country in West Africa, classified as a low-middle income country despite the fact that it is the biggest oil exporter in Africa with the largest natural gas reserve in the continent.
So, how can a nation with such resources be troubled with lack of affordable homes for its citizens?
The huge revenue derived from oil and gas and other key resources, have not positively impacted on the health of average low income earners in the country, as they live below 1 dollar per day. How do these low income earners improve their lives when the income they receive cannot take proper care of responsibilities, let alone affording a good home which is a necessity compared to other amenities.
With the present state of some rural, even urban housing areas the continued endemical housing deficits in the country makes mockery of the huge revenue made from some of the countries’ abundant resources.
The effect of high cost of capital or price to rent or own affordable housing remains a challenge to majority of low income earners. This is an aspect the government has failed to take proper note of. Maybe, it fails to understand that housing is a key sector it needs to focus on in ensuring healthy conditions for Nigerians.
In the urban centres in Nigeria, lack of affordable housing has reached an alarming state, as almost 75 % of urban dwellers live in slums and in conditions that are degrading to human dignity. The plight of the poor has not been adequately looked into, in spite of the activities of government in housing delivery, and private sector participation as well.
A government that knows that it is true when it is said that what the country gets as revenue from its resources does not rub off well on the lives of its masses, one cannot pretend that the government is not fully aware of this, it is. It knows that majority of its population live below $1 per day that may not even be enough to cater for a person, let alone more.
How does a low income earner survive going by the minimum wage majority of Nigerians are under? Most part of the populace earn little to eat, not to talk of renting or getting an apartment after not even feeding well? Sometimes, what they can afford to eat may not be healthy. How can a government claim not to understand all these? A government that feels it understand the plights of average Nigerians should know that housing is an area where the bulk of their little earnings go to?
It is said that where a man lays his head, that is where majority of his thoughts are formed. Leaving in an affordable housing environment keeps the mind healthy and also affects the body. When the mind is in a healthy state, it contributes more to the affairs of a society. It is the thoughts of habitants of a community that produce acts, if they are good acts, they improve a society but, if they are bad ones, they affect the society negatively.
Poor housing conditions are known for overcrowding which is commonly associated with different health issues, these include asthma, mental health, poor sanitation, physical injuries, poor ventilation, respiratory infections, toilet infections amongst others. Those living in slums are easily prone to hazards. Arguably, several nonfatal injuries occur in and around homes, every year, many persons die in housing fire incidents, poor housing conditions affect the intelligence of children, affect their behavior and development.
Children may be particularly vulnerable to this type of poor housing quality because they use the space in the home to do homework, interact with family members, develop an identity, practice skills, and sleep. Because the environments in which children are raised vary substantially across socioeconomic groups, these environments may also contribute to the intergenerational transmission of social inequality (Claudia D. Solaris and Robert D. Mare, 2015).
Residing in a crowded housing environment is capable of creating stress at homes and have negative consequences for its inhabitants. So, paying closer attention and addressing the problem of adequate housing, affords government the opportunity of meeting the basic need of an average Nigerian, a low income earner. Public health should be a necessity for a government that intends making life meaningful for its citizens and key criterion for government’s housing policies.
Government authorities should liase with the necessary stakeholders whether government, public or foreign to create policies and programs that will aid the funding and creating of affordable housing that will curtail or totally eliminate poor health conditions caused by terrible housing conditions.