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Self-recovery in post-disaster shelter is not the exception but the norm. Following earthquake, flood or storm, the majority of affected families will inevitably rebuild their homes themselves, using their own resources, but there is little support from the international community to encourage good safe building practice.
While the communication of key messages about safer building has been carried out effectively in development contexts, it rarely forms a major part of humanitarian response programming. If the humanitarian shelter sector is committed to the principles of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), more can be done to support the process of safer reconstruction among self-rebuilders.
This paper argues the case for the humanitarian community to link post-disaster shelter programming with the more developmental approach of communicating building safety to a much wider audience than just the most vulnerable beneficiaries. It proposes the shelter sector and the donor community direct more resources towards support for this process, which it argues would augment the effectiveness and impact of a shelter response.
The Building and Construction Improvement Programme (BACIP) has been working with the high mountain communities of the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan since 1997. Alongside its contribution to the general built environment and housing improvement of the area, the programme is engaged in the development and promotion of solutions for making the buildings seismically resistant. Gilgit-Baltistan falls in a high seismic zone and the earthquake of 2005 caused the death of nearly 90,000 people in the neighbouring state of Azad Kashmir and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, which share long borders with Gilgit-Baltistan. BACIP believes that investment in making communities safer will minimize the chance of loss of life and assets and reduce the cost of reconstruction. BACIP works with local communities in a participatory manner to improve the local housing by improving safety and comfort without changing the local culture and way of living. For the sustainability of its approach, it has made efforts to make its solutions part of the local market so that entrepreneurs and artisans are available to manufacture, sell or construct these solutions. A number of profitable enterprises have been established. Alongside hands-on training and demonstration, BACIP uses media such as radio for the promotion of its solutions and awareness of communities. In December 2013 with the support of the Building and Social Housing Foundation (BSHF), BACIP revisited a number of houses that were constructed using seismic-resistant technologies and it was found that the solutions applied to these houses had greatly contributed to the safety and comfort of the users. 100 per cent of the houses were in use and were occupied by the original owners.
Our research into the long-term impact of reconstruction provided new learning, leading to some suggestions for future changes to reconstruction and recovery and our ways of working. We were also able to identify gaps where we need to broaden our understanding, perhaps through future research. However, it is worth noting again that our review of case studies was based on qualitative information only. Numbers interviewed in each case were relatively small, and, therefore, did not produce statistically viable quantitative evidence. As far as possible, we verified individually obtained information through triangulation. We also compared our findings with those of two parallel research efforts with a similar focus. That said we are aware that these case studies are looking back at reconstruction over a very variable timespan, ranging between 4 and 35 years, making comparison of long-term impact difficult even between them. Moreover, they took place in widely differing contexts, and every new crisis is bound to be different again. The positive lessons that have come out of this research will, therefore, always need to be adapted to new disaster situations. Bearing in mind these restrictions, we can see some of the findings from the literature reviewed in Chapter 1 confirmed in our case studies. Other literature findings are harder to verify, partly because our sample of cases may not have covered them sufficiently, but also because these findings may have been evident in the short-term impact and changed in the longer term, a phenomenon confirmed in the research by Duyne Barenstein in Chapter 3.