Habitat Completes 120 Bamboo Houses For Bangladesh’s Flood-Affected Families

Japan-Funded Project Completed In Three Months

DHAKA, 18th March 2008: Annual flooding in a low-lying country like Bangladesh is a common bane but for 120 families in the central Tangail district who were affected by floods last summer, the problem can now be faced with greater peace of mind. These families recently received bamboo core houses built by Habitat for Humanity in a project funded by the multi-agency Japan Platform.

Positive: Tangail’s deputy commissioner Mohammad Akther Ali Sarker (center) commended Habitat’s flood response program for the construction technology and design and home family involvement.

Handover: Yoshihiro Sakakibara (right), first secretary for development cooperation and economic affairs at the Japan embassy in Bangladesh, presenting a symbolic key to a home partner in Bhuapur.

Security: With a decent home, Ajufa Shek (right) is no longer worried about her children’s future.

The benefits of Habitat’s post-flood reconstruction project were highlighted by Tangail’s deputy commissioner who was the chief guest at a recent dedication ceremony in Bhuapur subdistrict. Deputy commissioner Mohammad Akther Ali Sarker said: “Every year the people of the river bank along the Jumana River suffer greatly from the annual floods causing untold damage and hardships. Many of their homes are washed away during flood.”

“But the technology and design that Habitat Bangladesh has used in building the houses will definitely keep these 120 families much safer during the normal flooding season.”

The 120 bamboo houses on stilts in Bhuapur were built in just three months by more than 90 local construction workers including skilled masons and volunteers.

In addition to the Habitat home partner families, others present at the dedication ceremony included several Japanese guests. Guest of honor was Yoshihiro Sakakibara, first secretary for development cooperation and economic affairs at the Japan embassy in Bangladesh. Also on hand were Kazuo Watanabe, Japan Platform’s project manager; Megumi Nishijima, HFH Japan’s international program officer, along with volunteers from Ritsumeikan University’s Habitat campus chapter.

Tangail’s Ali Sarker also highlighted Habitat’s method of engaging the families in contributing “sweat equity” or their own labor. He noted that Habitat did not simply distribute relief aid to the flood victims. Instead, Habitat helped the affected families to get back on their feet by asking them to help rebuild their homes. Impressed, Ali Sarker asked HFH Bangladesh to extend the flood response project to help another 5,000 homeless families along the river bank area.

Funding for the project came from Japan Platform, an international humanitarian aid organization that helps refugees and victims of natural disasters. Japan Platform gets funding from the Japanese business community and Japan’s foreign affairs ministry with support from private foundations such as the Japan Foundation Center. Projects funded by Japan Platform are implemented through the partnering non-governmental organization.

There were other players who were instrumental in the successful completion of the project. HFH Japan’s Megumi Nishijima, who was closely involved in the project, appreciated the dedication of HFH Bangladesh’s staff who worked during holidays and thanked each project staff for their enthusiasm.

Lauding the volunteers from Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan, the deputy commissioner noted: “I have no words to express my thanks and gratitude. You traveled to Bangladesh to work under the sun to build Habitat homes. Thank you for your hard workers to make Habitat’s project successful.”

In addition to the national and local government’s cooperation, HFH Bangladesh’s national director Roger Bodary was full of praise for the affected families. “It was wonderful working with the people of Bhuapur. Their hospitality and simplicity amazed all the staff and workers of the project. We are only sorry that more families couldn’t have benefited from this project. We hope and believe that this is the initial start of a long-term relationship.”

The contrast in the families’ lives is vivid. As HFH Japan’s Nishijima, who was part of the Japan assessment team that visited Bangladesh, recalled: “The area almost looked like an ocean. We witnessed people trying to evacuate with their belongings by boat.” At the temporary shelter camps, “people were living in congested, tiny shelters made of jute sticks. There were no safe water and sanitation. People have not enough food. Agricultural products were damaged. But people had the urge to go back to their own places after the water subsides and start all over again”.

With their new Habitat homes, the people’s hope of starting afresh can now be fulfilled.

One home partner, Ajufa Shek, said earlier: “Not even in our dreams did we think we can live in this kind of house in our life. We are very poor; we do not have the ability to build this kind of house by ourselves. We were in trouble when the flood came. Now we are safe. We are not worried about my children’s future, thanks to Habitat.”

Ajufa and her husband Samad have four children aged six to 14. The family of six depend on sole breadwinner Samad who brings home about 2,000 taka (US30) a month as a daily wage laborer.

Nishijima urged the home partners at the ceremony: “Now it depends on you how you will make your lives comfortable. You have to work hard, face new challenges and bring changes in your lives.”

Following the completion of the flood response project, HFH Bangladesh has begun another project in Mirzaganj subdistrict, southwestern Patuakhali district, to help families hit by Cyclone Sidr last November. The partnership with Christian Aid Ministries will see some 300 core houses being built while Habitat continues to seek funds to rebuild lives of 3,000 cyclone-affected families.