Six months since an undersea earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia sending a tsunami killer wave on a roll of destruction and devastation, countries and people in the Indian Ocean have been brought together like never before to provide a wide range of support and rehabilitation. The quake struck in the Sunda Trench, about 100 km west of Sumatra on 26 December 2004. Besides the countless thousands who lost their lives, of the survivors now picking up the pieces of their lives, it is the poor who were worst affected. Damage and destruction of homes represents by far the greatest loss for these people.
UN-HABITAT has been working towards sustainable reconstruction of the tsunami-affected countries in two ways – help in long-term reconstruction strategies at the national level, and implementation of community-based integrated shelter reconstruction projects at the community level.
UN-HABITAT has also been helping governments coordinate agencies and NGO’s assisting Indonesia and Sri Lanka, to ensure that reconstruction efforts of different organizations are directed towards the common goals and within the framework set by the long-term development strategies of the countries. Additionally, UN-HABITAT has developed partnerships with the private sector, in an effort to maximize the effectiveness of project implementation. To date, UN-HABITAT has jointly mobilised about US$ 21 million with UNDP to launch a series of shelter and community infrastructure reconstruction initiatives in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
In Indonesia, the Aceh Settlements Support Programme (ASSP) will support a process of community action planning, dovetailing the government’s Kecamatan Development Programme (KDP) and Urban Poverty Programme (UPP), to ensure a needs-driven, participatory approach to rehabilitating and reconstructing homes and community infrastructure damaged or destroyed by the tsunami.
The programme will provide direct financial support to meet a portion of the rehabilitation and reconstruction of housing and community infrastructure requirements. Some 6,850 homes in five districts have been rebuilt and repaired.
Additionally, the programme will extend technical assistance support at the community level to strengthen existing government programmes to address issues of housing, land management, micro-spatial planning, and risk mitigation measures. The ASSP technical assistance support component will extend beyond the areas targeted for ASSP supported physical investment to include a greater number of tsunami-affected settlements covered by KDP or UPP. To date, US$15 million has been secured in partnership with UNDP for Indonesia. In Sri Lanka, rehabilitation of community infrastructure and shelter is underway in the five worst hit cities. UN-HABITAT is also promoting city-to-city cooperation, and already the cities of Munich, Germany and Vittoria, Spain, have each provided funding to a city in Sri Lanka. About US$4.7 million has been raised for reconstruction in Sri Lanka.
In the Maldives, UN-HABITAT is providing substantive management inputs to the UNDP shelter recovery program. Preparation is underway to launch shelter reconstruction in two islands with a total budget of US$900,000, serving the needs of approximately 370 families.
While these projects are small in size compared to the need, they are designed as replicable models promoting people’s ownership, community-level disaster preparedness and poverty alleviation. UN-HABITAT believes that these intangible and often time-consuming efforts have long-lasting effects on sustainable reconstruction that is linked to long-term development of the affected countries.
Long-term reconstruction is still in its initial stages, and faces mounting challenges such as land tenure and relocation that need to be resolved before shelter can be delivered. The country faces the conflicting needs for urgent reconstruction and careful consideration of reducing vulnerability to future disasters. But UN-HABITAT is committed to help affected communities attain sustainable recovery and reconstruction through continued support for the governments, community groups and families.