Solving public health challenges through housing innovation

South Africa faces a human settlement challenge – over 7.5 million people live in informal settlements with little to no access to basic services such as water and sanitation.

Along with the formal subsidised housing programmes provided by government (RDP housing and similar), initiatives to upgrade informal settlements have been identified as promising, and have started scaling up throughout the country.

However, precarious living conditions, access to basic services, and environmental risk factors such as air pollution, indoor fuel combustion and climate change, have been widely recognised to negatively affect the health outcomes of individuals and communities.

South Africa faces a large burden of disease attributable to these factors, therefore innovations in the fields of energy, technology, built environment, urban planning and health promotion are of the utmost importance. To address this, we worked with a range of organisations in both Switzerland and South Africa (in particular, the Embassy of Switzerland in South Africa) to identify innovative housing technologies that could directly contribute towards addressing the varied public health issues facing South Africans.

Over the course of four weeks, RIIS identified over 125 technologies of interest in both countries, and passed these to our project partners who helped localise and validate the solutions in a real-world pilot study.