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Fifth anniversary of devastating Indian Ocean tsunami sees Habitat for Humanity still working with disaster‐affected families and communities: new report

Habitat has assisted more than 22,500 families in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand plus tens of thousands more with disaster preparedness training

BANGKOK, 16th December 2009: Five years after the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami, a new report shows how Habitat for Humanity has helped — and continues to help — tens of thousands of families become stronger as they rebuild their homes and lives in tsunami‐affected communities across Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand.

 

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Challenges faced and strategies used are outlined in Habitat’s new report on its post-tsunami reconstruction programs in four worst-affected countries.

 

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Former tailor Isniar puts her skills to good use in handicraft work and takes an active role in her village in Aceh, Indonesia.

 

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Ismaail (right), with his son and wife Komiah, is thankful for Habitat’s help in renovating his damaged house in Phang Nga province, southern Thailand.

On the 5th anniversary of the one of the worst natural disasters of modern times, Habitat for Humanity marks its longer‐term commitment to rebuilding with the publication of a report entitled Emerging Stronger: Five years after the Indian Ocean tsunami. In this report, Habitat outlines the challenges faced and strategies used as the organization mobilized donors, partners, volunteers and supporters from across the world to undertake the long and complex task of providing permanent new homes for those in need. The report also looks at the impact of its work on individual families and communities.

Habitat for Humanity post‐tsunami reconstruction programs have assisted some 22,500 families in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand (up to September 2009) and current plans should see this total rise to more than 25,000 in 2010. In addition, an estimated 27,000 families on the east coast of India have learnt how to protect themselves and their property through disaster mitigation and preparedness programs.

“The tsunami challenged us to build at a larger scale than we ever had,” said Jonathan Reckford, chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity International. “The unprecedented destruction and suffering required an unprecedented response from the public, private and non‐profit sectors. Thanks to our many donors, partners and volunteers, five years later we have assisted 22,500 families and are still at work building and improving homes and responding to yet other natural disasters as we help additional families develop strong, sustainable communities.”

Habitat for Humanity is still working with communities affected by the tsunami in the four hardest‐hit countries. As projects are completed during 2010, Habitat will remain in the communities, continuing to build, renovate and repair homes for those in need through its regular programs. These programs include no‐profit mortgage and housing microfinance components. Repayments from no‐profit loans are recycled to help Habitat to reach many more families over time. The transition to these programs is progressing well in the four tsunami‐hit countries.

“Habitat for Humanity’s post‐tsunami rebuilding projects has created momentum and systems that became a springboard for the scaling up of low‐cost housing solutions in regular Habitat programs,” said Rick Hathaway, Asia‐Pacific vice‐president of Habitat for Humanity International.

Habitat for Humanity seeks to break the cycle of poverty by offering affordable, good quality, permanent housing solutions. The provision of decent housing in the wake of a disaster means more than responding to immediate or temporary shelter needs. A permanent home is seen to provide relief to survivors while better protecting them against potential future disasters.

In its response, Habitat employed strategies designed to leave communities stronger than before, with access to the many benefits that safe and decent housing brings. These benefits include better health, education and employment opportunities.

Habitat’s report, Emerging Stronger: Five years after the Indian Ocean tsunami, includes stories of how the organization’s work has impacted the lives of individual families. For example:

  • Habitat homeowner Isniar has put her tailoring skills to good use in handicraft work in Jabi village, Calang, on the west coast of Aceh, Indonesia. She said that before she had felt old and useless but now with all the training she had received after the tsunami, she could share what she had learnt with others in the community and raise awareness of the environment. Isniar represented her village in a project that trained women to turn food waste into garden compost. She is also part of the village’s water‐sanitation committee.
     
  • As a member of a local self‐help group, Mary heard about a women’s masonry training program organized by Habitat for Humanity. She signed up for it. “The difference between my previous job and now is that before, I used to move (construction) materials and it was physically exerting. But now, as a mason, the materials are on the site and I just have to lay the bricks,” said Mary. “Earlier, I was assisting the men. Now, I am on par with the men.” When Mary finished her on‐the‐job training, she constructed a wall at the request of some villagers from Alanchi village in Kanyakumari, India, where she lives. In 2008, she built her own house with the help of her nephew.
     
  • Il Salfiyar’s relationship with Habitat for Humanity has resulted in a new home, a new business and a new life for him in Arugam Bay, Pottuvil, on Sri Lanka’s east coast. The tsunami had swept away everything that he had worked so hard for — his family, his house and his shop. He joined a Habitat rebuilding project working as laborer and providing tea and snacks to the masons as they worked on a Habitat house. Today, Il has remarried and runs a grocery shop with his wife. Their children are showing improvement in their studies now that they have the privacy of a room to study.
     
  • Life has been marked by change for Ismaail, Komiah, their son and their niece who lives with them in Phang Nga province of southern Thailand. When the tsunami hit, Ismaail lost his fishing boat and equipment. Although his old wooden house was not destroyed, Ismaail said he would not have been able to manage the repairs. He is grateful for his renovated home, which comes with a tube‐well to provide fresh water and an outdoor toilet. He shared: “The condition of our old house was poor. Now, the children have space to play and study.”