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On The Third Anniversary Of The Indian Ocean Tsunami, Habitat For Humanity’s Programs On Track To Provide 22,000 Families With Permanent Housing

BANGKOK, December 21, 2007: Three years after the world’s attention was focused on the massive destruction caused by the deadly Indian Ocean tsunami, Habitat for Humanity continues to meet the challenges of rebuilding the homes, lives and communities of survivors and their families.

Habitat for Humanity programs in India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand are on course to ensuring that an estimated 19,000 families will have permanent, safe, secure housing by the end of 2008, rising to 22,000 by the middle of 2009 – at the expected completion of Habitat’s post-tsunami reconstruction response.

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Opportunity: Women from Chinnakottakuppam village, near Pondicherry, India, making building blocks out of clay using machinery and training provided by Habitat’s post-tsunami program.

“Habitat for Humanity’s commitment to the reconstruction effort has deepened as the years have passed since that terrible day in December 2004,” said Jonathan Reckford, chief executive of Habitat for Humanity International. “Rebuilding viable communities takes planning, careful implementation and, most of all, time. We would like to thank our donors, volunteers and supporters from all over the world who continue to support our work in hundreds of communities even as the world’s headlines are taken up with new calamities.”

To date more than US$50,000,000 of donors’ funds have been spent, and millions more are earmarked for continuing projects and new programs.

As of November 2007, Habitat and its partners had built, repaired, rehabilitated houses and provided other assistance for approximately 13,500 families.

According to Rick Hathaway, vice-president for Habitat’s Asia-Pacific operations, “The tempo of our response has continued to be strong throughout 2007 as the capacity and expertise we have built in India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand have begun to be fully felt.”

He emphasized that the cornerstone of Habitat’s response continued to be a community-based disaster response model which enlists the participation of affected families and leaders in the community in which they live.

“Wherever possible, new homes are located within existing villages or neighborhoods, sometimes on the same, albeit strengthened, foundations of former dwellings. That is what people want. It avoids breaking up communities and prevents families drifting deep into poverty.”

“Working together ensures that we find housing solutions that meet real needs, be it shelter, or construction-related training and employment opportunities or through disaster mitigation programs,” said Hathaway.

For families a safe, secure permanent home means the end of years of living in temporary accommodation, perhaps staying with relatives, or staying in dangerous or dilapidated parts of their old tsunami-damaged properties.

The most complicated Habitat program is in Aceh, Indonesia, where the isolation and the extent of the damage wrought by the tsunami have added to the challenges of rebuilding. To date more than 5,000 families have been assisted has been served by the project.

Habitat for Humanity’s approach and work, which also involves water-related projects, has been publicly praised by, among others, Badan Rekonstruksi dan Rehabilitasi, the government’s reconstruction agency. The two bodies are discussing collaborating directly in developing new sites.

In India, Habitat for Humanity’s tsunami-reconstruction initiatives has helped more than 5,300 families with new homes and the rehabilitation and repairs of existing dwellings. And the pace of activity is increasing. Working from the main resource center in Chennai and technical offices in Madurai, Pondicherry and Vijayawada, Habitat and its partner organizations are building about 300 new homes each month, and repairing a further 80 other properties. 

In addition a new disaster mitigation and preparedness program launched in November is expected to benefit 7,500 families living in coastal areas around Pondicherry. The program teaches families how to strengthen their homes and how to react in the face of threats from future flooding, landslides earthquakes and other disasters.

In Sri Lanka, Habitat for Humanity is on course to build more homes than in 2006. More than 2,200 new homes have been built to date: an estimated 1,000 of them are expected to have been built by year’s end in spite of continuing security issues. 

Habitat for Humanity Thailand has completed assisting more than 600 households affected by the tsunami in the provinces of Phuket, Phang-Nga, Ranong and Krabi. A Habitat resource center has assisted a further 400 families through employment opportunities, using alternative technologies to produce construction materials, and with housing microfinance services. The national organization has now established a regular Habitat program supported by the local authorities and partners to assist local families requiring safe, secure, affordable homes.

Habitat for Humanity uses its community engagement model in its response to natural disasters throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Habitat has recently responded to flooding and cyclones in Bangladesh, the tsunami-hit Solomon Islands, communities in Pakistan and Indonesia that were hit by earthquakes, as well as typhoon-affected parts of the Philippines.