A massive earthquake struck Pakistan and neighboring India and Afghanistan on October 8, 2005. The most severe damage was near the earthquake’s epicenter, approximately 60 miles north-northeast of Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. An estimated three million people became homeless as a result of the earthquake. The delivery of humanitarian assistance was hindered by the mountainous area, cold weather and damaged or collapsed infrastructure.
Habitat for Humanity formally established its presence in the country shortly before the earthquake. It has worked with partners to assess damage and to rebuild and repair homes. Habitat has also provided transitional shelter and developed building centers to help provide permanent housing solutions for the millions of people displaced by the earthquake. During the first phase, Habitat provided funding along with construction and project management expertise to partners.
Immediately following the earthquake, Habitat for Humanity Pakistan used transitional shelters to house 480 affected families. Transitional shelter was introduced as an alternative to tent camps which required the separation of families and relocation of families away from their livelihood. The dome-shaped transitional shelter model was easy to assemble and less vulnerable to potential damage caused by aftershocks. It provided protection against harsh winters and was cost effective. In addition, all the materials—including corrugated metal sheets, galvanized pipes, metal tying strips and insulation material—are reusable in the construction of permanent houses.
Pakistan’s program also adopted a new method of using larger pieces of salvaged timber from the houses destroyed by the earthquake. A significant number of injuries and deaths resulted from heavy timber used in ceilings of traditional homes falling on occupants during the earthquake. Mobile sawmills are being used to cut wooden beams salvaged from the damaged houses, turning them into lighter-weight boards that can be used to construct houses in a more earthquake-resistant way. This innovative method has helped the Pakistan Habitat program serve more than 6,000 affected families, providing adequate lumber for the construction of permanent houses without cutting down any trees. The mobile sawmills are taken to inaccessible remote mountainous villages, whereas it would be almost impossible to carry the wooden beams to sawmills in the city.
Habitat Resource Centers
Following the earthquake, Habitat for Humanity Pakistan established community-based centers known as Habitat Resource Centers. These resource centers provide a vehicle for serving families in a multitude of ways that strengthen communities in affected areas. Each center serves at least three purposes: as a central site for local HFH teams to store reconstruction materials; as a place for the community to come together for decision making and information sharing; and as a place for the community to undergo training in construction techniques.
As of September 2009, Habitat for Humanity Pakistan has served more than 9,800 families through its disaster response program. The resource centers are continuing the services of reconstructing houses and providing technical support in the earthquake-affected areas.
How you can help
Donate to Habitat's Disaster Response program.