Rapid shelter recovery in Lebanon -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Rapid shelter recovery in Lebanon

By Dan O’Brien

Habitat for Humanity International recently completed a two-year disaster response effort in Lebanon, following the July war of 2006 with Israel. The first phase of the response focused on the rapid recovery of salvageable homes in the rural areas of southern Lebanon.

The government of Lebanon estimates that approximately 15,000 homes were destroyed during the conflict, and nearly 125,000 significantly damaged. Total damages to residential structures alone exceeded US$1.49 billion.

In response, HFHI representatives worked in close coordination with the UN-sponsored shelter cluster to develop and implement a rapid shelter recovery program in the months immediately following the cease fire. The program was structured to provide an immediate solution while governmental aid and compensation programs were being organized.

The strategy was to repair structures that had only been partially damaged as a result of the fighting. Repairs ranged from US$500 to US$5,000. Engineers from implementing organizations were asked to assess the homes and design basic repair schedules to enclose a 40-square-meter space with adequate access to water and sanitation as well as a kitchen. This “core home” served as a transitional shelter, allowing families to return to their villages while the remainder of construction was completed on the rest of the homes.

The methodology for the program was a “cash for work” model that included local leadership as much as possible. In each community, leadership committees were formed from municipal and civil society leaders. In the absence of appropriate registration and title documents (many of which were lost in the fighting), these committees served as the best way to verify ownership and residency for affected families.

After HFHI technical assessments were completed and verification obtained from the leadership committee, beneficiaries entered into three-party agreements with HFHI and the relevant local leadership committee. The agreements detailed the repairs to be completed, the timeframe, and a compensation schedule for payments to the beneficiaries for completed construction.

Beneficiaries were then given regular assistance and supervision as they managed local builders who completed the majority of the construction. In this way, the program not only resulted in transitional shelter but also provided a much-needed injection of capital into the local economies of the villages. Furthermore, repairs were completed on what would become the permanent homes for the beneficiary families, avoiding the creation of too many temporary structures.

With a US$1.9 million grant from USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, combined with support from the Emily Anton Memorial Foundation and BibleLands Foundation, HFHI helped 432 families in nine villages over a period of about nine months. There was a 98 percent compliance rate among beneficiaries for appropriate use of funds, with noncompliant beneficiaries making full restitution for misspent funds.

By the conclusion of the program, the government of Lebanon had mobilized its response agencies and spread to the majority of previously underserved communities, effectively ending any further expansion of the rapid shelter recovery program. HFHI refocused operations to address shelter protection activities in the southern suburbs of Beirut as well as full home reconstruction support in the rural villages and vocational training activities. Over the lifetime of the response, HFHI assisted 1,834 families through these programs, including the rapid shelter recovery program.

Dan O’Brien has worked in the HFHI Lebanon program as project manager for the disaster response effort since 2006.