We applaud the initiative of Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), Sajida Foundation, Concern Worldwide and Water Aid of opening a three-Pavement Dweller Center on DSCC land to provide temporary shelter, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities and other essential services for extreme poor and homeless people in the capital. The centre would also organise capacity building activities and offer special facilities for differently abled people. As the winter approaches, our already vulnerable homeless population will have to battle it out for survival on the cold, harsh streets, with nothing but a torn blanket, if that, to shield them. Support from the city corporation, if it is sustainable, can go a long way towards providing them some comfort.
Urban poverty and rising inequality is a sad reality in Dhaka and other major cities in Bangladesh. According to a survey conducted by Centre for Urban Strategies, about 44 percent of people living in the capital are deprived of any sort of housing facilities; of them, 8-9 percent are floating populations who live on roads, parks and rail and bus stations. Many of these people take refuge in the city having lost their lives and livelihoods in their villages because of climate change, natural disasters or shifting economic conditions; others come here dreaming of a better life, only to be trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty. They are forced to live in inhumane, unhealthy hazardous conditions on the streets, lacking access to drinking water and toilets and exposed to a wide variety of diseases. Women and girls are exposed to high levels of violence on the streets.
The government must have a long-term vision for this vulnerable group, and the DCC, in collaboration with NGOs, should institute more such centres all around the capital where the homeless can seek sanctuary.