Over 420 Houses To Be Built As Its Partner, World Concern, Implements Two-Year Disaster Risk Reduction Program
BANGKOK, 31st July 2009: Habitat for Humanity's partner in cyclone response in Myanmar, international non-governmental organization World Concern, is moving into a new phase to help families affected by Cyclone Nargis.
World Concern will now be implementing a two-year disaster risk reduction program in a second phase where Habitat is expected to be involved in building 422 cyclone-resistant homes. Once completed, Habitat will have been involved in providing houses for a total of 860 families in addition to helping many others with other support.
The new program envisages a community-led housing approach in seven of the smallest and most vulnerable parts of Pyin Alan and Ye Twin Seik village tracts in the devastated Ayeyarwaddy delta. Families would have access to materials to repair or build their own homes with corrugated galvanized iron sheets and lumber.
The second phase of the project is already under way. Habitat has completed building more than 90 of 120 houses in Thaung Lay village, Pyin Alan village tract, near the southwestern delta town of Laputta. Habitat contracted teams of local carpenters and laborers to do the work. The houses feature an improved design with timber flooring rather than woven bamboo to strengthen the floor structure of the house. The design improvement was made based on families’ feedback to the World Concern project team and donors during a field visit.
Habitat is also looking at rebuilding 86 houses in Ye Twin Seik village in the village tract of the same name.
Lighting has been a part of Habitat’s response in Myanmar. In Thaung Lay, Ye Twin Seik and seven other villages, Habitat plans to build nine solar lamp recharging stations and distribute more than 600 solar lamps to families. The families can use the lamps to light their homes at night.
To enable house repairs during the monsoon season, Habitat has already distributed roofing and lumber materials to 473 families in seven villages. Once the monsoon season is over, these materials can be reused for more permanent housing structures.
In the first phase of the partnership  with World Concern, Habitat completed a total of 438 houses in five villages. It also helped supervise the construction of jetties and repairs of roads through a cash-for-work program funded by World Concern for affected families.
The houses are cyclone-resilient structures built to exceed United Nations standards for strength and space. The strengthened timber-framed houses sit on lightweight concrete stilts. Walls and floors are made of woven bamboo, and roofs use galvanized iron sheets. While latrines were built for affected families under the first phase of the cyclone response program, families will take the lead in creating communities free of defecation in the open. In addition to being given materials to build their own latrines outside their houses, families will be trained under World Concern’s Community Led Total Sanitation methodology to be aware of the risks of open defecation and to take action. Each of the beneficiary families is also provided with a 50-liter ceramic jar for collection of rainwater which flows from the gutter of their houses.
As of the first phase, Habitat built three solar lamp recharging stations and distributed solar lamps to 268 families in in Aima, Char Thar Gone and Poulong Lay villages in Pyin Alan village tract.
Habitat works with the government’s local Peace and Development Councils who take an integral role in construction. Led by the head of a village, the council selects families to be helped with priority given to the most vulnerable groups such as widows and the landless. The council also prepares the site for construction while construction teams provide labor and see to actual home construction. Habitat provides technical supervision, skill transfers, materials and logistics.
Other than housing needs, the livelihood prospects of the predominantly fishing communities in affected areas were also addressed. In the villages where Habitat built houses, at least 200 skilled and unskilled workers were able to improve themselves through on-site training in carpentry and other construction skills. A typical training session began with a general introduction to the cyclone-resistant house design and types of materials used, among others. Three model houses would then be built with skilled carpenters from other villages being on hand to guide their newly trained counterparts. After evaluation of the completed model houses was done, construction of the remaining houses went into full swing.
An evaluation report of the first phase of reconstruction in the World Concern-Habitat partnership indicated that: “The housing design had substantial community input, and is well-suited to these villages. Construction utilized local labor, thus providing income, increasing skills and ensuring sustainability.”
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. The damage in one of the world’s poorest nations was estimated at US$10 billion.
Since the cyclone, World Concern worked through its network of more than 40 partners to provide food, shelter supplies, clothing, medical care and counseling services to more than 13,500 affected families.
In July 2008, World Concern began to implement an integrated multi-sectoral disaster recovery program in 30 villages in Labutta township. Habitat is among World Concern’s coordinating partners in the first phase of its program to facilitate early recovery and restore immediate access to food, water, shelter, income and healthcare.