Habitat Builds 158 New Homes To Add To 280 Built For Cyclone-Affected Families In World Concern Partnership In Myanmar

Post-Cyclone Nargis Response Program Includes Pilot Initiative For Solar Lighting And Community Buildings

BANGKOK, 25th March 2009: Habitat for Humanity is extending its work in southwestern Myanmar where communities were ravaged by last year’s devastating Cyclone Nargis.

Habitat is engaged in building an additional 158 homes in the villages of Chan Thar Kone and Poulong Lay in the Ayeyarwaddy delta.

Saw Khilet (second from right) and his wife Naw Khui Phaw (third from left) with his children outside his Habitat house in Chan Thar Kone village.

(From left) Workers moving concrete footing to the worksite; putting up the wooden structure of the house.

Habitat supervised the construction of the jetty in Aima village.

Each of the 110 families (above) in Aima village was given two LED lamps which they could be recharged at the solar recharging facility (below).

In January, Habitat completed building 280 homes in three villages under the first phase of its partnership with international non-governmental organization World Concern. 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 latest homes are being built under a three-month extension of World Concern’s Cyclone Emergency Response and Recovery project (CERR) which took place from May 2008 to January 2009.

The first phase of shelter reconstruction took place in the villages of Aima, Aung Hlaing Kone and Ah Mat Gyi. Access to these remote communities is by five- to seven-hour boat rides from Labutta town on the southern tip of the devastated delta, 200 km. southwest of the capital Yangon.

Habitat has used a community-based program methodology that relies on the local Peace and Development Council to take an integral role in construction. Led by the head of a village, the council selects families to be helped and 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.

In Aima, Habitat for Humanity also piloted an initiative to distribute two rechargeable light emitting diode (LED) lamps to each of 110 families as well as installing a community solar recharger. The initiative was born following a visit by Tearfund, a U.K.-based relief and development charity, to the Cyclone Nargis response sites.

Solar lighting is an affordable technology which costs less than US30 per family to deploy. If used for up to six hours every night, a recharged lamp lasts for three nights. The families drop off their lamps in the morning and pick them up again in the afternoon. The 20 sq. m. solar recharging station is built on concrete footing and timber. Solar panels are mounted on the corrugated iron sheet roofing of the recharging station which has bamboo walls and floors.

Each recharge costs 100 kyatts (about 10 US cents). This is considered affordable and allows for maintenance and repair of the charging station and replacement of the lamps. The solar lighting program is set to be used in other villages where Habitat is partnering with World Concern.

There are plans to build at least three community cyclone-resistant storm shelters. In normal times these buildings will serve as community centers and schools but in severe weather, they will provide a secure shelter for residents. Habitat has come up with proposed designs for the shelters and is waiting for the go-ahead to start construction.

With a view to assisting more cyclone-affected families, Habitat is conducting further assessment of needs in Chan Thar Kone and Poulong Lay villages where it is currently building houses. The assessment centers on the needs of the villagers, the presence of other sectors under World Concern’s CERR project and the Peace and Development Councils’ openness to partnership with Habitat.

In terms of donor support, HFH Australia has received confirmation from Baptist World Aid Australia for an A100,000 (about US70,350) donation to the World Concern-Habitat partnership. Further funding partnerships are also under development.

In a recent report, US-based World Concern highlighted the high level of community participation in rebuilding houses, from “identification of beneficiaries to site planning, site cleaning and support in providing and training of workers.” At least 200 skilled and unskilled village workers were able to improve their skills having undergone on-the-job training to build cyclone-resistant houses. In the early days of the post-cyclone response program, before construction began, 600 families had access to bamboo tool-kits distributed by World Concern to enable them to repair their homes and build temporary shelters for protection against the monsoon.

Seattle-headquartered World Concern has been working in Myanmar since 1995 to improve community health, increase access to water supply, provide micro-finance opportunities, increase awareness of HIV and care for those living with HIV and AIDS and improve food security through sustainable agricultural development. It has more than 400 staff, most of whom are local, in the country. The organization has a memorandum of understanding with the government for its development programming, as well as long-established local partners who also have approval to work in the regions which were worst affected by the cyclone, including communities outside World Concern’s and Habitat’s areas of operations.

In the aftermath of the May 2008 disaster, World Concern provided food aid and relief items such as tarpaulin, clothing and mosquito nets. Livelihood support was given in various forms such as provision of rice seeds, distribution of boats and fishing nets and through a cash-for-work program where villagers received income for helping to rebuild community infrastructure such as bridges and roads. Its staff also conducted basic health training and psycho-social assistance for affected families.