Latin American authorities analyze climate change and its effects on housing in the region

Colombia, July 2023. Under the premise that Latin America and the Caribbean is the second most disaster-prone region in the world, authorities and climate change experts meet this week in Bogotá to analyze current effects of the climate crisis on housing in Colombia and the region. Participants will also learn about affordable and resilient solutions to reduce the current housing deficit, which was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This analysis will take place during the 5th Housing Forum, a regional event organized by Habitat for Humanity and convened through the Urban Housing Practitioners Hub (UHPH). Colombia’s Ministry of Housing, City and Territory, the Secretariat of Habitat and the Bogotá Mayor’s Office are co-hosts. Participating during the three days of the forum will be representatives of the United Nations, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), private sector, academia, civil society, community leaders, local and regional governments, and others.

Colombia was selected as the venue for the 5th Housing Forum as a regional reference and laboratory of policies and important intersectoral initiatives linking housing and environment, public and private sector, aimed at building more sustainable and efficient housing and habitat. Bogotá is the city venue for the event thanks to its leadership in housing and habitat, and programs for housing access and improvement that have been promoted through the Mayor’s office and District Secretariat of Habitat.

Latin American situation

According to IDB, 45% of the population in Latin America and the Caribbean does not have an adequate place to live. This means people are living in homes built of precarious materials with little resilience to climate change, lacking basic services, many with dirt.

Ernesto Castro, area vice president at Habitat for Humanity in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Housing is a pillar for the sustainable development of a community, a people, a nation. Efforts need to be redoubled to address the current climate and social crisis, with urgent measures for adapting to climate change through more resilient and safe settlements in compliance with the New Urban Agenda. At Habitat for Humanity, we are clear that we’re called not just to reduce the housing deficit. We must also do this in a sustainable way, adjusting to the reality imposed by our planet. What we’re facing is a challenge of enormous proportions, with serious consequences for those who are most vulnerable. A challenge we cannot tackle in isolation, we must do this together with others,” said Ernesto Castro, Area Vice President of Habitat for Humanity, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Disasters such as hurricanes, droughts and more are a reality millions of Latin Americans face in their homes every year. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), indicates that worsening climate change and the combined effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have stalled decades of progress against poverty, food insecurity and inequities. In addition, ECLAC

calculates that in 2022, the value of all damage and economic losses related directly or indirectly to disasters in the region amounted to $1.789 billion.

“A much more comprehensive view is required on the part of governments. It is very important to make a transformation in public policy on housing and habitat. There is nothing more important for quality of life than access to clean water and sanitation. The aim is access to adequate housing under a new public policy model that has to do with management, recognizing the importance of community water organizations, and understanding how public resources from the national government should be directed toward investing in housing improvement and new housing, in joint work with the private sector and in understanding how the construction of habitat construction should move forward,” stated Catalina Velasco, Minister of Housing, City and Territory in Colombia.

Celebrating Habitat for Humanity’s decision to choose Bogotá as venue for the forum’s fifth edition, Bogotá Mayor Claudia López Hernández went ahead and welcomed the participants arriving from different countries, presenting a complete panorama of the city’s process of economic and social recovery after the pandemic, and explained that a main focus has been on women.

“That’s why our housing policy included the design and implementation of housing solutions for vulnerable, low-income households (equal to or less than US$ 495 a month) in rental, purchase, upgrade or incremental housing modalities. Through these solutions, we delivered more than 12,000 subsidies, 72% to households headed by women,” explained the mayor.

The current housing crisis affects the most vulnerable sectors of the population above all, among them women, migrants, ethnic groups, young people and the elderly. Day after day they experience the effects on health, on security and on their lives from not having a safe place to call home. Given this situation, the forum is being held so that authorities are able to recognize urgent climate and social challenges in housing and habitat, as well as to share and propose innovative, scalable and responsible solutions addressing climate change, and summon the commitment, investments and resources the emergency demands.

“At UN-Habitat we believe meetings like the 5th Housing Forum are vitally important in the process needed for socioeconomic recovery in Latin America and the Caribbean, in the post COVID-19 context with a global crisis that also affects the region. In our organization we’ve identified housing and habitat-related issues as one of the priority areas for action and intervention, and one of the priority public and private investment areas important to promote,” indicated Elkin Velásquez, regional representative of UN-Habitat for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The event will also include an examination of 12 innovative initiatives that strengthen housing in the face of climate change effects, and which will receive recognition during a special award ceremony as the winners of the 2023 UHPH Inspiring Practices contest. This competition is held every two years to acknowledge and showcase housing initiatives that, through innovation and collaboration, help improve the quality of life of low-income families in the region.

The 5th Housing Forum is held with the support of The Hilti Foundation as global presenter and sponsored by regional partners such as: the Whirlpool Corporation, Grupo Argos, UN-Habitat, Development Bank of Latin America, Swiss Contact, World Vision, the International Habitat Summit-Latin America and the Caribbean, Miyamoto, Eternit and Asociación de Empresas Inmobiliarias del Perú. Previously, the forum was held virtually from Costa Rica in 2021, in Dominican Republic in 2018, Mexico in 2015 and Colombia in 2012.

Tithe Tour 2023

Through Habitat for Humanity’s tithe program, U.S. affiliates and national organizations worldwide, are asked to contribute 10% of their unrestricted revenue to other Habitat programs around the world, in order to support Habitat’s global mission of everyone living in an adequate and dignified place they can call home.  

Every year, the International Resource Development team takes time to visit some of the Habitat offices that donate their tithe to our national programming, in order to strengthen our relationships. We hold meetings and activities that allow us to share with others about our work in Guatemala, and, most importantly, to thank and present the tangible results of their contribution and partnership.  

During the first week of June, Habitat Guatemala had the opportunity to resume the annual Tithe Tour, in which Delorean Randich, National Director, Vanessa Brombosz, Director of International Resource Development, and Celia Enriquez, Tithe and Global Village Coordinator, visited 5 tithe affiliates on the US East Coast; HFH of the Charlotte Region, Asheville Area HFH and Avery County HFH in North Carolina, HFH Choptank in Maryland and Sussex County HFH in Delaware.


This opportunity has given us the chance to strengthen bonds with our international partners and discuss how tithe contributes to the growth of our families and allows us to maintain this principle of generosity and collaboration that transcends borders and languages. 

We thank each affiliate who welcomed us to their offices and look forward to continuing our efforts to build homes, communities and hope, and impact more Guatemalan families, together. 

Chávez Family -Uk’u’xJa Stove Project-

Martha lives with her husband and four children in the community of Pasojoc I, Zacualpa, in the department of El Quiché. Martha takes care of the household while her husband works in the fields.

Before partnering with Habitat Guatemala to receive an improved stove, Martha used to cook over an open flame on the ground, known here in Guatemala as a “poyo”. The family’s old stove was in poor condition and consumed large amounts of firewood.

Cooking like this caused Martha and her family various respiratory illnesses and irritability in the eyes due to the smoke that remained inside the house.

Through the Uk’u’xJa stove project, Martha and her family were one of more than 3,200 families that have been supported in their quest for access to an adequate, safe and hygienic stove. With this stove, families can reduce by up to 83% the cases of respiratory illnesses detected. In addition to allowing an income of up to $25 per month by reducing the consumption of firewood per stove by 43.6%, the stove also helps to save up to 6.5 trees per year.

Martha says she is very happy with her new stove – “now when I make my tortillas I don’t have to be on my knees, I can just stand next to the stove, without my back or legs hurting”.

Mission for life project

In Guatemala, families living in remote areas have difficulties accessing health care services due to a lack of transportation to facilities, resources, or language barriers. Fundanier, founded in 2003, provides outpatient services, hemodialysis, dialysis and kidney transplant services to children, especially those from low-income families.  

Many Guatemalan families still face the difficulties of the remoteness of their communities that limit the times they can take their children to receive treatment in a clinic. To account for this, Fundanier, in collaboration with Bridge of Life and Habitat for Humanity Guatemala (HFHG), has developed the Health Care Module for children with kidney disease to create safe and secure spaces and environments for the health and well-being of the family. 

The Health Care Module 

The Module is built one meter away from the home of the families, creating a passageway with the existing home. The main objective of this Module is to promote a safe and healthier environment for the personalized treatment of patients with kidney disease living in remote communities of the country. Additionally, this module aims to: 

  • Provide families with a durable structure strategically located to the side of the existing home for patient access. 
  • Improve current hygiene conditions in the home by accessing water through a rainwater harvesting system outside of the home, and hygiene areas through the installation of a sink and washing station. 
  • Expand current home environments by amplifying the construction footage of the home and reducing overcrowding in other built spaces. 

Peritoneal Dialysis Room

  • 3.00m x 3.00m block and wood structure 
  • Includes: rainwater collection system, outdoor handwashing station, metal door and windows, solar panel, water filter, chair, table and shelves.  
  • Design structure can be customized to meet family needs 
  • Cost: approximately $7,500.00 USD 

Project results 

  • Built 8 safe and durable structures for home-based peritoneal dialysis care (from September 2022 to March 2023
  • Improved access to water and hygiene for participating families 
  • Healthier and brighter futures for children 
  • Alliances with local and international partners that fund and support this Mission for Life project 

Josefa Ixtahualan – ADISA

Meet Josefa Ixhalan,the proud, single mother of Dolores (19 months) who has an intellectual disability that requires constant care and attention. 

Thanks to the support of Habitat for Humanity Canada, Hope & Healing and Homes4Hope, this family now has a new home that has been specially designed to meet their needs. The home was designed incorporating universal accessibility. It has a spacious and safe outdoor area where Dolores can play and enjoy the sunshine. 

Josefa is beyond grateful for this amazing opportunity and has expressed her sincere thanks to everyone who made this possible, “I feel much better now. I want my daughter to grow up in a safe environment, go to school and be happy,” she mentions. They now have a comfortable place to call home, where Dolores can thrive and grow. This is truly a testament to the power of community and how we can come together to make a difference in the lives of those who need it most. 







Margarita Ramírez – ADISA

Today, we share with you the story of the Ramírez family, who participated in the project Improving the lives of people living with disabilities in Solola, Guatemala implented by Habitat Guatemala and ADISA and funded by Habitat Canada, Hope&Healing International and Homes4Hope.

Kendall, inspired by the health care professionals who have helped him with his cleft lip diagnosis, wants to be a doctor someday; he wants to help other children. “After all, doctors helped me too!” – he tells us, brightly. The family is grateful for the support and care they have received from ADISA for Kendall’s therapy.  

Kendall proudly shows us the new home, water filter, stove and bathroom that he and his family received during the project. The family is overjoyed with their new home and express their gratitude for the support they had received, “I can hardly find words to express our gratitude. We already feel at home here. Thank you very much for everything!” – says Margarita. They shared how much of a difference it had made in their daily lives and how much easier it was for them to move around the house. Kendall, can now play and grow up in a safe home. They also spoke about how grateful they were for the sense of community they had felt throughout the project,  

The Ramirez family’s story is just one example of the positive impact this project has had on the lives of 45 families with children with disabilities. We are proud to be part of this transformation and we remain committed to continuing our efforts to improve the lives of Guatemalans. 







Petronila Nimajay – Hybrid House – Church of Bend

Petronila (25) is doing laundry in the new pila (water station) when we arrive at her new Hybrid House in the hidden village of Chuacruz Pujujil, Sololá. Her husband Antonio (27) and children Blanca, Emerson and Osvald greet us with smiles on their faces: Seqar!“ – Welcome!. The fourth child of the family sleeps in a cloth on Petronila’s back. 

“We are very happy and grateful to have this very nice house. Before, we lived in the mud house next door with my parents.” – Petronila recounts – “It was cramped and dark.” 

The new house is bright and protects the family from wind and rain. “Now we have enough space! It makes our life much easier!” – Antonio, tells us. With the house they also received a Healthy Home Kit including a water filter, a smokeless stove and a latrine . 

“Thank you again for this support, God bless you. Our life has improved a lot. Cooking is easier now and the children are no longer in danger of getting burnt from the fire. We can also use water more sparingly!”. As in many remote areas, people have to fetch water from a distant source. 

“Chuaqchic” – Goodbye ; everyone waves to us as we are about to leave her new home. 








Every Drop Counts! – Water Day, March 22

Every year on March 22nd we celebrate World Water Day. An important date that invites us to reflect further on the value of water for each one of us and for life itself. 

For many, going down to the kitchen for a glass of water or performing daily tasks such as bathing, washing hands or brushing teeth is neither a challenge nor a health threat. Perhaps this is why many of us are even accustomed to wasting water without reflecting on the millions of people who struggle every day to get the vital liquid and for whom every drop counts.  

Worldwide, the scarcity and lack of safe water is alarming. It is estimated that at least 2 billion people use water sources contaminated by feces or other microbes as their main source of drinking water (WHO, 2022). Similarly, 4 billion people (two-thirds of the world’s population) experience water scarcity at least 1 month per year (UNICEF, n.d.).  

This existing water vulnerability (contamination and scarcity) brings serious consequences among which we can highlight: 

  1. Diseases: 829,000 deaths per year due to lack of safe water and sanitation (WHO, 2022). 
  1. Hunger: Inadequate access to water, hygiene and sanitation account for 50% of global malnutrition (UNICEF, 2022). 
  1. Conflict: In places like Cameroon 23,000 have been displaced by conflicts related to lack of water (UNHCR, 2021). 

In Guatemala, the situation is as worrying. Despite the abundance of water resources in the country with our 7 lakes, 19 coastal lagoons, 49 ponds, 109 lagoons, 7 reservoirs and 3 temporary lagoons, it is estimated that more than 90% of the country’s water sources are contaminated (Peace Brigades International, n.d.). At the same time, 3.5 million Guatemalans do not have access to potable water (World Scarcity Clock, 2023) and the lack of adequate and easily accessible sanitation services in homes affects 44% of households in the country (INCAE, 2016). It is worth mentioning that Guatemala also ranks as the 16th most vulnerable country in the world to climate change, which will amplify the magnitude of the impact of scarcity and contamination of water sources in the country. This will affect millions of Guatemalans in their living conditions and, mainly, their health. 

Faced with this situation, year after year Habitat for Humanity Guatemala (HFHG) continues to work hard with local volunteer committees, communities and national and international organizations to reach the neediest families in Guatemala. In this way, HFHG has supported entire communities with water, hygiene and sanitation solutions ranging from water purification filters, pilas, rainwater harvesters and sanitary stations.  

Since 2010, HFHG has delivered 4,385 latrines; 10,157 water purification filters; 1,084 pilas, 3 community water systems and 225 rainwater harvesters. Thus, contributing to bring clean and safe water to many communities throughout Guatemala. At the same time, HFHG is creating a platform to contribute to the promotion and advancement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets and indicators such as Goal 6: clean water and sanitation.  

Through the support of Habitat and its network of collaborators, today more Guatemalan families do not have to worry about their children getting sick from drinking contaminated water, they do not have to travel distances of up to 1 hour several times a day to collect water, and more families have access to safe and quality sanitation services. In addition, having water harvesting systems supports families with water in quantity, and having water purification filters also helps to obtain quality water that is fit for human consumption. All of this also supports the household economy and mitigates the morbidity of gastrointestinal diseases. 

The use of water is everyone’s responsibility, it is not enough just to obtain and purify it, but it is also important that we take care to give primary treatment to wastewater to minimize the environmental impact. HFHG has been working in recent years to implement water sinks in outdoor washing stations, biodigesters and ventilated pit latrines that help protect groundwater from grease, soaps, human excrement and other contaminants. Groundwater accounts for 99% of the planet’s liquid freshwater (UN, 2022), so its care is of utmost importance to minimize the impact of scarcity, pollution and to expand access to safe water for the entire population. 

HFHG’s purpose this year is to continue supporting more Guatemalan families and informing society about the great need that still prevails for many communities to be able to obtain safe water. All of us can support this great cause by donating, volunteering or simply spreading the word about Habitat’s work in order to reach more communities.  

One drop at a time, together we can make a difference  


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