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Partnerships Provide Hope and Shelter for Displaced Families

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In Burundi…More than 1,400 houses have been built for returning refugees, under a First Shelter Initiative program and in partnership with World Vision Burundi.

In the mid-1990s, the small central African country of Burundi erupted in ethnic violence that killed some 300,000 people. For the past three years, Habitat has been working to re-build homes for the returning refugees. In partnership with World Vision, an additional 400 houses were built this past year in the Giteranyi and Muyinga communities. More than 1,400 families have been able to re-establish their homes through this Habitat/World Vision partnership.

Unfortunately, Burundi is not the only site of prolonged civil war on the continent of Africa. Since its independence, 25 years ago, Angola has been embroiled in civil war. Today, Angola is engaged in a new struggle: the task of rebuilding its devastated infrastructure and resettling the tens of thousands of refugees who fled the fighting. A partnership with CARE International will build 100 houses this year in villages around the city of Kuito, in the central province of Bié, with 400 additional houses expected to be built in other areas by December 2005.

In Sierra Leone, a partnership with World Relief will house 500 vulnerable families in the Kailahun district. Just emerging from a decade of civil war, which left 50,000 dead and many more displaced, Sierra Leone also faces the challenge of reconstruction. Participation in the rebuilding of permanent homes provides a solid physical and psychological anchor for these families that face the daunting challenge of resuming livelihoods after so many years in exile.

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In Sierra Leone, a partnership with World Relief will house 500 vulnerable families in the Kailahun district.

Developing partnerships with like-minded organizations like World Vision, World Relief and CARE enables Habitat for Humanity to reach out to these displaced families by providing permanent homes and also provides a holistic approach to the resettlement process. Families need more than housing: They need a means for livelihood and healing. Services provided by partner organizations complement the activity of physically re-building and settling into a home.

Even though homeowner families are not able to meet the typical Habitat requirements of “paying back” for the house, the programs are community-based and community-led. Following basic Habitat principles, recipients participate in the building or repair of their homes as well as those of their neighbors. In this way, not only are they building their homes, but they are re-building their community.

According to Mario Flores, the director of HFHI’s disaster response office, “The challenges posed by disasters and complex emergencies demand sound actions so that affected families can rebuild their livelihoods. These programs provide an important platform from which families can begin the slow process of recovery.”