Alsurrah Awad is very happy and thanks God for a dream come true when asked what she thought of the new housing project by UN-HABITAT and partners which saw her and a few others relocate from a Khartoum slum to better homes within the Sudanese capital.
Former slum dweller, Mrs. Alsurrah Awad with her grandchildren at their new home. Photo © : UN-HABITAT / T. Osanjo.
The elderly widow is one of the beneficiaries of a pilot scheme currently underway and executed by UN-HABITAT working with the State Government of Khartoum and with funding from the European Union and the Italian Development Cooperation.
The beneficiaries were moved from the informal settlement of Salama within the city to Al Rasheed, some 40 kilometres away. Instead of the hovel she was living in, Alsurrah now has two rooms and a verandah built using the new Stabilized Soil Block (SSB) technology which UN-HABITAT is pioneering in the country. There is also space to build a pit latrine within her walled compound.
“I had lost hope that I would live the rest of my life in the slums but now I am living my dream,” she says as she cuddles her two granddaughters, Zubar, 7, and Mashaar, 4.
Alsurrah lost two sons in the civil war which pitted the Sudan army against rebels from the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army. She is now left with one son who does manual labour in the city and a daughter, the mother of two girls.
Her biggest challenge now is to get something to do so as to earn sustainable livelihood. “If I could get something like a donkey and a cart or capital to open a small shop, I would gladly engage in business,” she said.
According to the Project Coordinator Mr. Abdelrahaman Mustafa, the pilot project which started in 2009 has seen some six families getting new homes. As the first beneficiaries, they received their homes free and were chosen because of their extreme poverty. The second phase started with the establishment of a funding mechanism and forming a cooperative in Al Rasheed whereby the local community saves money and has access to credit from a revolving fund for the purchase of construction materials enabling them to build their own homes. Already, 36 families have received credit for purchase construction materials so that they too can build their own homes in Al Rasheed.
The use of the Stabilized Soil Blocks (SSB) technology means that people do not have to cut down trees or build ovens to fire their bricks, thus contributing to environmental conservation. Indeed, Mr. Abdelrahaman says that the project has a tree planting component where some 2,000 seedlings would be planted.
He also said some 210 people were being trained in SSB technology; 18 trained in ferro-cement roofing; 49 trained in SSB construction, while 12 others would be trained in building pit latrines. Also thankful for getting a roof over his head is wheel chair bound Albadri Isa Kuku Adam. The 35 year old father of one is jobless and relies on the goodwill of his brothers to see him through life. When he was allocated the piece of land he did not know how he was going to put up a building, but thanks to the project now he has a place to call home.
“I am really thankful and now my next prayer is to have some business to help me take care of my wife and son,” Adam who did six years of formal schooling says. He was struck by polio when he was four years old and he says life has been a constant struggle ever since.
For Ms. Rawda Musa, the house where she lives with her three daughters aged between three and 15 is an answered prayer. “Although my daughters do not go to school because of lack of school fees I am very happy that we have a home,” she says.
The single mother says she can engage in small scale trading and wishes that she could get a sponsor to steer her on a path that would enable her to send her children to school.
Note Mr. Tom Osanjo of UN-HABITAT’s Information Services Section visited Sudan early in December to provide this first-hand account of UN-HABITAT’s work in the field. It is the first in a series of reports being published on these web pages.