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Two Years After Cyclone Nargis, Habitat For Humanity And World Concern Have Completed More Than 1,200 Houses For Families In Myanmar

Habitat Also Repaired 500 Houses; Building Is Ongoing

BANGKOK, 12th May 2010: Two years after southern Myanmar was battered by Cyclone Nargis, Habitat for Humanity and its partner World Concern have helped nearly 1,800 families rebuild their homes and lives.


Houses completed in an affected village in the Ayeyarwady Delta region.


A village crumbled under the impact of Cyclone Nargis in May 2008. Photos: World Concern.


Habitat coordinates logistics and transport of construction materials.


(Left) Houses use strengthened timber frame and are built on lightweight concrete stilts; (Right) With a solar lamp, Thurein Soe is able to study better at home.

Habitat has rebuilt a total of 1,267 basic houses in 18 communities in the worst-affected Ayeyarwady Delta region and has repaired 500 others. Building is continuing.

“A centerpiece of our rebuilding work with our partner World Concern has been to work with families in each community as well as with local government authorities,” said Rick Hathaway, Asia-Pacific vice-president for Habitat for Humanity International. “There is still more that we can do together to transform lives in the coming years.”

World Concern, which has had a presence in Myanmar since 1995, called on Habitat for its shelter experience. Habitat’s principal contribution has been providing experts in design, construction and project management as part of the Seattle-based organization’s Cyclone Emergency Response and Recovery (CERR) project.

A key to the success of the program has been close cooperation with the government-backed village Peace and Development councils around the worse-affected township, Labutta. The councils have helped in such areas as selecting the most vulnerable families, identifying relocation areas, mapping, and identifying local people to receive training in carpentry and masonry.

With additional funding secured by Habitat for Humanity Great Britain through Jersey Oversees Aid Commission, another 46 cyclone-resistant core houses will be constructed by the third quarter of 2010. Communities will also be trained to reduce their risks during disasters and in sustainable livelihood initiatives.

Habitat’s approach has been to build basic cyclone-resilient structures that exceed United Nations standards for strength and space. The houses use strengthened timber-frames and are built on lightweight concrete stilts. Walls and floors are made from woven bamboo, and roofs use galvanized iron sheets. Each house comes with a latrine and water catchment system. Families also have solar lamps which can be recharged at charging stations in each community.

Habitat provides technical supervision, skill transfers, materials and logistics. Families are encouraged to work on their houses, but most of the work has been under taken by paid workers. Habitat coordinates the logistics and transport of construction materials that are often purchased in Labutta and shipped up to five hours away to the villages where they are needed.

Fifty-two-year-old Daw Hla Myint, who is among 120 families helped in Thaung Lay village, is grateful for the assistance. “After the cyclone, we lived in a small house with tarpaulin roof. To build a house is just a dream for a widow like me. Even if I will work hard, it will take at least five years to build a house with corrugated galvanized iron roofing.”

Fourth grader Thurein Soe, from Thaung Lay village, who can now study better at home, shared: “Before our house had no solar lamps, our family used only candles. Because candles are not cheap and we do not have enough money, studying our lessons was difficult. Now that we have a solar lamp, I can study my lessons because we have enough light.”

Under World Concern’s CERR project, six evacuation centers are also under construction as part of measures to protect families and lives against future disasters. In normal times these buildings will serve as community centers and schools. Habitat for Humanity is supporting World Concern with the design of the centers, provision of technical advisers and other construction-related support.

Among donors supporting Habitat’s work was HFH Australia which supported the project with funding from Baptist World Aid for construction of 102 core houses. In addition to shelter construction, Habitat also helped supervise the construction of jetties and the repair of roads through a cash-for-work program funded by World Concern and its partners for affected families.

In July 2008, World Concern started an integrated multi-sector disaster recovery program in 30 villages in Labutta township. Habitat is among World Concern’s coordinating partners in its multi-phased program to facilitate early recovery and restore immediate access to food, water, shelter, income and healthcare. Projects range from provision of boats and nets, buffaloes and seeds to fish and farm again; to tanks, well and ponds for a safe water supply; to disaster management training so that families can be better prepared to mitigate the effects of future disasters. Other partners include Tearfund UK; Tear Australia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland; inter-church development organization ICCO & Kerk In Actie (“Church in Action”); Dan Mission; World Relief and Cedar Fund.

Cyclone Nargis, the worst cyclone to hit Myanmar in decades, struck on 2nd May 2008. Some 145,000 people were reported to have perished and more than 50,000 others were listed as missing. Damage in one of the world’s poorest nations was estimated at US$10 billion.