Homeless children in England living in shipping containers, hostels — Commissioner’s report

A pedestrian walks past a bus shelter where the belongings of a homeless person are stored on High Street opposite Windsor Castle as pedestrians walk by in Windsor, west of London, on February 2, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 21 August 2019
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Homeless children in England living in shipping containers, hostels — Commissioner’s report

  • Rough sleeping in the capital rose by 18% over the last year, hitting a decade high of 8,855 people, according to a Mayor of London funded database

LONDON: Children in England are sleeping in converted shipping containers and rooming houses, environments that are often dangerous and far from their schools, a report by the Children’s Commissioner for England found on Wednesday.
Homelessness has been increasing in England for nearly a decade amid rising private rents, a freeze on welfare benefits and a shortage of social housing.
The report estimated that homeless children in England could number more than 210,000, including 120,000 officially homeless and another 90,000 ‘sofa-surfing’ with family members.
“It is a scandal that a country as prosperous as ours is leaving tens of thousands of families in temporary accommodation for long periods of time,” said Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, in a statement.
“Something has gone very wrong with our housing system.”
The report warns of the dangers of precarious living situations for children, such as shared bathrooms in hostels, which could create “intimidating and potentially unsafe environments.”
Repurposed shipping containers used as housing were often overcrowded and could lead to antisocial behavior, it said, while thousands of children live in so-called ‘temporary,’ accommodation for as long as a year.
“This report is a damning indictment of the government’s catastrophic failure to address the housing emergency,” said Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity, Shelter.
“We constantly hear from struggling families forced to accept unsuitable, and sometimes downright dangerous accommodation...The devastating impact this has on a child’s development and well-being cannot be overstated.”
Rough sleeping in the capital rose by 18% over the last year, hitting a decade high of 8,855 people, according to a Mayor of London funded database. Most of those had never before resorted to bedding down in parks or doorways.
Responding to the report, a government spokesman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation “No child should ever be without a roof over their head, and we are working to ensure all families have a safe place to stay.”
“We have invested £1.2 billion to tackle all types of homelessness, and we are working closely with councils across the country to reduce the number of families in temporary accommodation.”
The report warned that households falling behind on rent or mortgage payments could put another 375,000 children in England at risk of homelessness in the coming years.


WHO: Tanzania not sharing information on Ebola

Updated 22 September 2019

WHO: Tanzania not sharing information on Ebola

  • WHO issues rare public rebuke as the region struggles to contain an outbreak already declared a global health emergency

DAR ES SALAAM: Tanzania is refusing to provide detailed information on suspected Ebola cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) said, a rare public rebuke as the region struggles to contain an outbreak already declared a global health emergency.
Transparency and speed are key to combating the deadly hemorrhagic fever because the disease can spread rapidly. Contacts of any potentially infected person must be quarantined and the public warned to step up precautions like handwashing.
WHO said in a statement released late on Saturday that it was made aware on Sept. 10 of the death of a patient in Dar es Salaam, and unofficially told the next day that the person tested positive for Ebola. The woman had died on Sept. 8.
“Identified contacts of the deceased were unofficially reported to be quarantined in various sites in the country,” the statement said.
WHO said it was unofficially told that Tanzania had two other possible Ebola cases. One had tested negative and there was no information on the other one.
Officially, the Tanzanian government said last weekend it had no confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola. The government did not address the death of the woman directly and did not provide any further information.
Despite several requests “clinical data, results of the investigations, possible contacts and potential laboratory tests performed ... have not been communicated to WHO,” the UN health agency said.
“The limited available official information from Tanzanian authorities represents a challenge.”
Authorities in east and central Africa have been on high alert for possible spill-overs of Ebola from the Democratic Republic of Congo where a year-long outbreak has killed more than 2,000 people.
Last week the US health secretary, Alex Azar criticized Tanzania for its failure to share information on the possible outbreak. The next day he dispatched a senior US health official to Tanzania.
Uganda, which neighbors Congo, has already recorded several cases after sick patients crossed the border. A quick government response there prevented the disease spreading.
The 34-year-old woman who died in Dar es Salaam had traveled to Uganda, according to a leaked internal WHO document circulated earlier this month. She showed signs of Ebola including headache, fever, rash, bloody diarrhea on Aug. 10 and eventually died on Sept. 8.
Tanzania is heavily reliant on tourism and an outbreak of Ebola would likely lead to a dip in visitor numbers.
The WHO statement is not the first time international organizations have queried information from the government of President John Magufuli, nicknamed The Bulldozer for his pugnacious ruling style. Earlier this year both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund contradicted the government’s economic growth figure for 2018.