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Habitat Team Hears Calls for Stronger Homes in Bangladesh

DHAKA, 16th August 2007: A key advisor in the response to the devastating floods which have inundated Bangladesh has called for houses to be better designed to make them sturdier so they can withstand the waters in future.

During a meeting with members of Habitat’s disaster response team yesterday in the Bangladeshi capital, the chief technical advisor with the Comprehensive Disaster Management Program (CDMP) also called for improved accessibility for the young and the elderly.

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Photos: Mikel Flamm
Habitat savings group leader and future home partner Nurana Akter, 26, husband jafar Hussain, 34 and son  Jibon 5 wade through the water. Their temporary home is the metal sheet house in center of photo

“People thought the raised embankments around their communities would protect them from the flooding, but as the waters raised they broke down and left them with no time to leave,” said Ian Rector.

“Houses need to be redesigned in areas where there is potential for flooding, using bamboo and appropriate technology available to reduce costs and have a sturdy house.”

“People in villages we have visited are not happy with building houses on stilts. They need to understand the risk factors and make them accessible to the elderly and children. We are also looking a constructing flood shelters that can be used in emergency situations.”

Rector also noted that families whose homes survived also were less likely to have health-related needs.

The Habitat team met the CDMP to talk about possible future partnerships in the response to families affected by the on-going flooding in Bangladesh.

Nearly 10,250,000 people in 39 districts throughout Bangladesh are now reported to have been affected by the flooding.

The CDMP is supporting the government’s on-going relief work, channeling aid through United Nations Development Program (UNDP). It uses locally-based non-government organizations to target areas and people worst hit by the floods. The CDMP’s funding comes from the government of Bangladesh, the UNDP, Britain’s Department of International Development, and European Union.

The CDMP has plans to work in Keshobpul, a sub-district of Jessore, located approximately 120 kilometers southeast of Dhaka, which was hard hit by flooding, the worst in a decade.

Habitat for Humanity International region program manager Kyle Scott said, “We are keen on working with the CDMP in Keshobpul where there are a number of possibilities making use of a Habitat Resource Center for training and capacity building with construction of appropriate house designs.”

HFH Bangladesh has built about 143 homes in Jessore. Some 48 of these homeowners have been affected by the flooding, losing their livelihoods and crops.

A Habitat assessment team is to visit Savar, 35 kilometers north of Dhaka, and other locations over the next three days to determine the extent of the damage. 

In Savar, nine Habitat homeowners were affected when waters rose as high as one meter. Although the total extent of damage can only be determined when the flood waters subside, assessments have begun.

Livelihoods have been affected, although there were no reports of injuries or illness among the Habitat families in Savar.

Habitat savings group leader Nurana Akter, 26, her husband Jafar Hussain, 34, and five-year-old son Jibon, live in a community some 10,000 families. Most rely on daily laboring jobs.

“The floods have affected everything,” says Nurana. “We are short of food, work and the children cannot return to school. We just wait until the water resides then can get back to a normal life again.”

Jafar works as an electrician.  Walking through the muddy water carrying his son he shakes his head, “We have had no support so far. A medical team was in a nearby community but did not come here since we are cut off from the main road.”

“The people here are low on food and with no relief supplies we all are facing difficulty. We live day by day,” he said.

HFH Bangladesh has built and rehabilitated approximately 1,000 homes. It operates mainly through Habitat Resource Centers and related satellite centers in local communities. Many projects are under taken in partnership with other non-governmental organizations.