Get your postie a cuppa because today is World Post Day! Since 1969, World Post Day has been celebrated on 9 October each year, marking the anniversary of the day the Universal Post Union (UPU) was founded, back in 1874 in Bern, Switzerland.
The purpose of World Post Day is to create awareness of the role the postal sector plays in our everyday lives – from receiving a letter from a loved one living thousands of miles away to getting your latest delivery from Next!
North of the Fig Tree
But what about the poor postal workers who have to decipher post without an addresses? Believe it or not, ‘the house north of the old fig tree’ is common practice in some countries where local landmarks, rough distance estimates and even fast food restaurants are used to mark a postal address.
Last month at Post Expo, I was fascinated to discover that as many as 4 billion people around the world still don’t have an address.
Without an address, residents have no way of applying for government services, opening a bank account or getting access to health care, the list is endless. In effect, they do not even exist.
Obviously not having an address will have serious impacts to delivering post. In Costa Rica, postal authorities reported that almost a quarter of post is undeliverable because they can’t figure out where the addressee lives. Whilst a 2008 study estimated that the lack of addresses and signage cost the country $720 million annually.
However, postal delivery is just the tip of the iceberg. Not being able to find an address could mean the difference of life and death when it comes to emergency crews, disaster relief and delivering aid where efficient logistics is critical.
According to the UPU, addresses are an ‘essential tool for economic and social development’. Not only do they improve public services, but they facilitate business and trade, thus impacting national development.
A basic human right
Up until recently, efforts to name streets and introduce postal codes in these countries has largely been unsuccessful. But one Irish organisation is set to change all that.
Addressing The Unaddressed is a non-profit social enterprise committed to providing unique postal addresses to people who live in dwellings in unplanned settlements.
A spokesperson for the organisation said: “Our vision is informed by our belief that an address is an essential attribute for any citizen and that having an address is fundamental to citizenship, democracy and a basic human right.
“We have the technology, great people and incredible passion for our work which benefits so much those we address. Our lack of money just means it will take us more time.”
As of July this year, the project had addressed a staggering 2,302 houses in the Chetla slum in Kolkata, India. Amazingly, 7,692 adults and a similar number of children live in these houses – so a total population of about 15,000 people. Of these people, and because of this work, 254 now have a bank account, 79 have a voting card, 73 have an Aardhar card and 2 have their own electricity account.
It’s strange to think of being grateful to receive your utility bills as, for most of us, an address is something we take for granted.
If you’d like to make a donation to this worthy cause, please visit the Addressing the Unaddressed website.