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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Tsunami reconstruction: Oxfam ensures community involvement in shelter projects

The Island: 20/05/2005"

Oxfam is using innovative methods and evolving designs in consultation with the affected families to build transitional shelters in the tsunami hit areas of the island.

"Building shelter is not just delivering a product, you need to take time and make sure you have a solid base to start from before you implement a construction programme," said Sandra D’Urzo, Shelter Adviser. "We should think beyond technical matters. The priority is to ensure that there is a people-centred approach rather than a technology centred process."

One of the places where Oxfam has succeeded in providing quality shelters is in the town of Tangalle in Hambantota District. Here, tsunami affected families were involved at all stages in developing a transitional shelter design’ and, if they chose, in the construction of their new homes.

Most of the families, who moved into the transitional shelters in Tangalle, were involved in the construction. It gave them an opportunity to make earn while they constructed their own accommodation.

"All that I had earned in the past 30 years was lost in 30 minutes," said Premananda, who is now in one of the transitional shelters. "Oxfam gave me the opportunity to work and make a living."

To involve the beneficiaries in the designing of the shelters, Oxfam conducted ‘Design workshops’ with families. It helped the families figure out their needs. They came forward with suggestions about the size, materials to be used and how they were to be constructed.

"Oxfam’s principles rests in the fact that, despite the grief and loss this disaster has caused reconstruction and resettlement can go hand in hand with re-development, providing opportunities to relieve poverty and restore dignity," said David Crawford, Country programme representative, Oxfam.

In response to the government’s decision to have some 40,000 transitional shelters by the end of May with an immediate focus on the South of Sri Lanka, which will face the early Monsoon rains first; Oxfam is ensuring that this target is met. Based on community participation and in accordance with minimum quality standards, Oxfam has agreed to assist with the construction of over 1,500 shelters in the South and East of the country.

"It is not Oxfam’s policy to construct and then leave the place", explains Zulfpiquar Al-Haider, an engineer involved in shelter work in Hambantota. "We will be here for the longer term and continue to monitor the situation and the need. We want to see that families return back to normal life".

Oxfam has already handed over 200 shelters and 500 more would be made available to the tsunami survivors in the course of the month. The biggest hurdle in setting up shelters is the lack of availability of land.

Oxfam has also constructed shelters in Batticaloa and Ampara districts. "We have taken care that each family moving into the shelter has its privacy," said Yoga, Programme coordinator based in Batticaloa. "Here each of these shelters has two rooms and separate entrances so that women do not have any inconvenience."

While involving the community in designing of the shelters, Oxfam also sought their help in building toilets and setting up water supply in the camps. So far, Oxfam has supported 60,000 people with safe water 20,000 hygiene its have been distributed in different camps all along the tsunami battered coastline.

Oxfam installed water purification equipment to ensure supply of clean, potable water in the camps. Nearly 700,000 litres of water is treated and distributed per day in tsunami-affected districts. Now, Oxfam is working with Water Board to meet the long-term needs of the people.

To ensure cleanliness and check outbreak of any disease in the camps and the transitional shelters, Oxfam has built 300 emergency toilets. These were set up within days after the people settled down in the camps. Another 300 semi-permanent toilets have been built in the east and south of the country. Over 300 volunteers have been trained to undertake public health promotion.

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