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Habitat plans to build up to 25,000 homes for tsunami victims

Habitat for Humanity plans up to
25,000 homes for displaced tsunami victims

BANGKOK (Jan. 7, 2005) – Habitat for Humanity offices in four of the principal countries affected by the devastating earthquake-triggered tsunami in the Indian Ocean are putting together plans that could house up to as many as 25,000 families in a first phase of transitional housing as it works to provide permanent housing solutions. Groundbreaking on the homes could occur as early as next week.

Corporate and other donors within Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand have pledged more than US$1.9 million in money and gifts-in-kind to Habitat. Matching funds from Habitat for Humanity International and other donations will provide even more homeless families secure accommodations.

“It’s important that we move as quickly as possible to help these families get into safe and appropriate shelter,” said Paul Leonard, chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity International.

“The families most impacted were the very poor, and there is a serious need to get them out of the camps and back onto their own land as soon as possible,” said Steve Weir, vice president for HFHI’s work in the Asia-Pacific region. “Not only are many of the refugee centers unsafe and growing more unsafe, but they have moved families away from their limited sources of livelihood. Getting them back into shelter on their own land sooner rather than later must be our first priority.”

Habitat’s goal is to help families move out of the camps into transitional accommodations as a first step to permanent housing. Due to overcrowding, hunger, disease and crime in many camps, authorities are encouraging families to return to their communities to start rebuilding their shattered lives. Habitat officials estimate that for as little as US$200 per displaced person, they can move a family of five out of a camp and into permanent housing.

Habitat’s two-pronged response involves working in partnership with local officials, relief agencies and other nongovernmental organizations to quickly provide transitional housing. Examples would include a permanent structure comprising one room and a verandah under a roof, plus sanitary facilities, and a permanent structure and a roof that would exclude external/internal walls where families may insert temporary walls themselves. The transitional houses do not require Habitat’s traditional no-interest, no-profit mortgage repayment and Habitat hopes to build the homes on land families already own. Later, the homes could be improved and extended using Save & Build or other Habitat programs.

Habitat also proposes to create “disaster response technical centers” – modeled on its successful building and training center concept. These centers would provide technical expertise and assistance to families, Habitat affiliates and partners. Later these centers could become full-blown building and technical centers, “social businesses” that teach people the skills for making their own homes as well as producing affordable building materials such as compressed earth blocks, roofing tiles, doors, windows and frames.

Work by country
In Sri Lanka, where several Habitat affiliates and their homeowners were directly affected, an estimated one million people have been displaced. HFH Sri Lanka is part of C-Net, an alliance of 10 Christian-based NGOs working to provide shelter using transitional housing. Ground could be broken for the first houses as early as next week.

In the first phase, the goal is to build 10,000 core houses and to move 100,000 people out of refugee camps. HFH Sri Lanka is the largest homebuilder in the country, after the government, and could be responsible for half that total. Each basic shelter is expected to cost up to US$500.

Habitat for Humanity India will focus on hard-hit coastal areas of Tamil Nadu state, where an estimated 10,000 people were killed. HFH India is working with the Discipleship Center and others to distribute food, clothing and tents to families as part of a state government plan to encourage people to return home.

HFH India seeks to provide transitional “core” housing for up to 4,000-6,000 families in the first building phase. Disaster response/building and training centers are planned in four communities and each center would support around 1,000 families or more as they build new homes. The core houses, about half the size of a normal HFH India unit, would cost about US$400-$500 each.

In Indonesia, the hardest hit country, Habitat’s national office expects to work in Aceh, at the northern tip of Sumatra Island, and on Nias, an island to the west of Sumatra. The office is considering using materials donated or sold at a discount by a major Indonesian steel group to erect transitional steel housing in refugee centers. The homes would be dismantled for reuse once the families return to their own land. Units could cost around US$200 each and the initial plan is to house 250 families in Aceh and another 200 in Nias. HFH Indonesia would establish three disaster response technical centers on Sumatra.

In Thailand, though the national HFH office does not have existing activities in the tsunami-affected south, it is joining the national reconstruction effort. Options being considered include disaster response technical//business and training centers, and a target of 1,000 “core” homes, costing around US$750 each. In Thailand and Indonesia, in particular, HFHI may provide significant capacity building support to strengthen the national organizations.

To contribute:
Habitat for Humanity International
Asia Tsunami Response Fund
121 Habitat Street
Americus, GA 31709-3498
1-800-HABITAT (800-422-4828)

About Habitat for Humanity
Habitat for Humanity International, based in Americus, Ga., is an ecumenical Christian ministry dedicated to eliminating poverty housing. By the end of 2005, Habitat will have built its 200,000th house and more than one million people will be living in Habitat homes they helped build.