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Two Years After The Indian Ocean Tsunami, Habitat For Humanity’s Reconstruction Efforts Focus On Housing And Community Development

BANGKOK, 24th December 2006: Habitat for Humanity announced today that in the two years since the deadly Indian Ocean tsunami, the organization has assisted nearly 10,000 families with permanent housing. Habitat has built, repaired and rehabilitated houses with tsunami-affected families in India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

“At the same time that we have been building houses we have also been building capacity in the Habitat national organizations in these four countries. A transition process is under way to our regular programs, and we will continue to work with communities where poverty is entrenched and housing is often threatened by earthquakes and cyclones, floods and landslides,” said Steve Weir, vice president for Habitat’s Asia-Pacific operations.

“By facilitating development of construction-related businesses as well as providing training and employment for build sites, we’ve contributed more to the recovery than the merely house structures,” said Weir. Habitat’s community-based disaster response model encourages participation by village leaders and affected families.    

In a year that saw the dedication of Habitat’s 1,000th tsunami-recovery house in Venamulla, Sri Lanka, and the 2,600th in Aceh, Indonesia, Habitat focused on projects that included livelihood opportunities and community development. At Habitat resource centers in Thailand, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, tsunami-affected people have found new jobs producing concrete blocks, septic rings, door frames and window frames and other building components for the rebuilding effort.

A highlight of the latter part of the year was the visit of former U.S. President and Habitat volunteer Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter to Habitat tsunami projects in India and Thailand. The Carters took two days out of the week of the Jimmy Carter Work Project in India, 30th October through 3rd November, to bring awareness to the tsunami-recovery housing reconstruction.

Recalling the shock of hearing about the tsunami at his home in small-town Plains, Georgia, USA, Carter told the families who gathered to meet him: “The people of my village felt very sad for you and wanted to find a way to help.”

In Thailand, Carter visited Thatchatchai, Phuket province, where Habitat has built and repaired more than 90 houses. With help from the owner of a block-making workshop, Carter made a soil-cement interlocking block like those used for the tsunami-recovery houses. The villagers learned to make blocks from a joint livelihood project of Habitat and World Concern, another international non-governmental organization.

Habitat for Humanity Thailand started its tsunami-recovery work in Phang Nga province, the area hardest hit by the tsunami, then expanded to Phuket, Ranong and Krabi. To date, it has housed more than 700 tsunami-affected families. As part of the transition to a regular repayment program, Habitat has begun recruiting families to join a Save & Build microfinance housing scheme. In addition to new houses, the program will include repairs and rehabilitations.

In Indonesia, the country hardest hit by the tsunami, Habitat’s disaster-response project sites in Banda Aceh and North Aceh are wrapping-up their tsunami-reconstruction efforts by year’s end. Building continues in Meulaboh and other west coast communities. Destruction of roads, bridges and other infrastructure and the high demand for labor and materials have made it difficult to work on the west coast. All together more than 3,500 families have been served.

In India, Habitat for Humanity is working in affected coastal communities of the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. The response has included construction of villages to relocate fishing families as well as repairs and renovation of many houses that are vulnerable to cyclone damage. In most communities, Habitat works in partnership with a local or national non-governmental organization to provide the housing component of a comprehensive community development plan.

In Sri Lanka, Habitat’s tsunami-recovery response encompasses coastal communities from Hikkaduwa to Matara on the southern coast and on the east from Trincomalee to Pottuvil and Arugam Bay. The 1,000th tsunami-recovery house constructed in Sri Lanka was dedicated in August of 2006. Habitat continues to build near Trincomalee and Batticaloa, areas affected by ethnic violence; however, the safety of staff and home partners calls for extreme vigilance and caution.

For more information on Habitat for Humanity’s response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, visit www.habitat.org. For more on the strategy behind the response see the 18-month report at http://www.habitat.org/ap/tsunami/18month/default.aspx.

About Habitat for Humanity International

Habitat for Humanity International is a global non-governmental organization that welcomes to its work all people dedicated to the cause of eliminating poverty housing. Since its founding in the USA in 1976, Habitat has built more than 200,000 houses in dozens of countries, providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for more than one million people. For more information, visit http://www.habitat.org/ap