Sunday, January 12, 2014

Focus on Migration: How best to rebuild after disaster

Max Martin in For the millions of Filipinos displaced by Typhoon Haiyan, the New Year is a time to rebuild their houses and livelihoods. Many people are returning to their ravaged neighbourhoods to erect “weaker, leakier and sometimes rotting versions” of their old homes, as The Washington Post reports.

Due to its location in the Pacific Ocean, the Philippines is one of the countries most exposed to typhoons. A recent report notes that between 2008 and 2012, more than 12 million of its inhabitants were displaced by natural disasters. This means people need resettling in safer — and yet still culturally acceptable — homes. How to do this well is an open question.
One consideration is whether people should be relocated or stay where they are. Either way, rebuilding their homes will be a key first step.

There are internationally accepted guidelines that help humanitarian organisations think through the process of building new housing for disaster victims, among other things: the Hyogo Framework and the Sphere standards, for instance. These frameworks include advice on how and where to rebuild people’s homes and make them safe from future threats.

Although there are genuine efforts to ‘build back better’ after disasters, it is important that humanitarian organisations follow such guidelines in their true spirit. For example, they should  use the guidelines as a framework to analyse, whether it is most appropriate to rebuild settlements as quickly and efficiently as possible — perhaps at a low standard — or to wait and work towards better-quality accommodation that is more acceptable locally. A common mistake in an emergency setting is to import a set of solutions that does a job, but which may not be locally acceptable or safe....

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