This paper documents the views of children and their caregivers about an impending relocation (that has been on the cards for a while) in the context of plans for central areas of Addis Ababa and Hawassa to be developed.
The findings suggest that most of the children and their caregivers have heard about the planned relocation from various sources. A significant proportion of caregivers mentioned promises made to them, mainly regarding improvements in housing and services, notably water and electricity. However, they did not have any clear idea about the likely timing of the move, an indication that the people most directly concerned have not been sufficiently involved and consulted in the planning process. Some suggested that they would need time to prepare for relocation. A significant proportion of the caregivers and some children know people who have already been moved, confirming that this is a fairly common experience in the two cities.
Most children and their caregivers were hopeful that they will experience improvements in housing and sanitation, and girls valued the prospect of having better toilets and kitchens. Some caregivers felt that the new relocation areas would be better for bringing up children. However, children and adults both expressed major misgivings. They feared losing sources of livelihood in informal activities in the city centre and worried about finding a place to live. Some mentioned concerns that services, notably health care and education, would become unavailable, distant, poor quality or unaffordable; others feared the loss of existing close-knit relations with neighbours, friends and relatives. A few, particularly elderly caregivers, were strongly opposed to the relocation. Others, however, were optimistic suggesting that whatever happens they will be better off living elsewhere.
The issue of urban development and the resulting relocation has important policy implications. Poor people living in inner city areas would prefer to remain in the same area where their livelihoods are based after the area is redeveloped; reserving part of these areas for housing for the urban poor would therefore be an equitable pro-poor policy. Given their poverty, replacement housing in condominiums or other affordable housing schemes deserve priority since they are unable to build housing on their own. Greater participatory planning, involving not simply transparent, timely advance information and adequate compensation and/or replacement housing, but involvement of communities in the planning and execution of the relocation would be an improvement on the current process. Redevelopment and relocation in stages could also prevent unnecessary excessive disruptions. In the new relocation areas, the development of adequate infrastructure and services, as well as the linkages between housing, livelihood opportunities and recreational facilities, especially for children, deserve greater consideration.