Philippines typhoon: no quick fixes for permanent reconstruction

26/11/2013

The Disasters Emergency Committee warns the international community must learn from past disasters and not rush into a quick-fix rebuilding of permanent homes, schools and other buildings in the Philippines.
 
Due to the extent of the damage the task of rebuilding may, in part, fall to aid agencies. Proving transitional shelter first will ensure there is time for proper planning before building permanent housing so that the reconstruction leaves people better protected from disasters than they were before the storm hit.  
 
An independent report (commissioned by DEC) by engineering, planning and design consultants Arup found that after the Indian Ocean tsunami DEC agencies, and their partners, in Aceh worked to build back better and reduce vulnerability to natural hazards, with high occupancy rates of the resulting homes reflecting the quality of construction. However, the report noted some early mistakes in Aceh that resulted partly from a desire to move too quickly to deliver permanent homes for affected people.
 
DEC Chief Executive Saleh Saeed said:
 
“It is important to learn from the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami. Agencies must work closely with the local authorities and communities, taking the appropriate time to get the planning right. No one wants to see rushed, poorly built housing and public buildings that can’t withstand future disasters.”
 
In the aftermath of an emergency, issues such as land tenure, rubble removal and environmental factors all need to be considered as does coordination between local leadership, governments and aid agencies. The DEC warns that these issues could take months to overcome in a disaster of this magnitude.
 
To alleviate the immediate shelter needs DEC agencies are providing emergency supplies such as plastic sheets, tarpaulins and ropes and they will work with communities to help them repair and strengthen buildings. But as emergency shelters are not meant to be a long term solution DEC agencies will be providing materials to people so they can build transitional, one room, shelters that can last until more permanent homes can be built.
 
It is also essential that when individuals want to rebuild their homes themselves they are assisted to do so as soon as possible.  The Red Cross makes it a priority to assist displaced persons to salvage materials from the rubble and provide resources for reconstruction.
 
Jose Penya Disaster Risk Reduction adviser at the British Red Cross said: 
 
"We encourage families and communities to rebuild their own homes and assist with equipment and tools such as chainsaws and cement. Rebuilding gives a psychological boost, and by paying people a daily wage for their labour we can empower families and help them to rebuild their self esteem and their income base.
 
"There are no set templates for housing as there are many local factors to consider, but we can advise and guide. At the core of the recovery lies community engagement. Previous disasters have proved that the more involved the community is in the decision making, the more successful the projects will be."