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Oxfam Tsunami Report - One Year On

16 January 2006 at 12:01 pm
Staff Reporter
Providing shelter for those displaced by the tsunami is proving the toughest challenge one year on according to a recent Oxfam International report.

Staff Reporter | 16 January 2006 at 12:01 pm


Oxfam Tsunami Report - One Year On
16 January 2006 at 12:01 pm

Providing shelter for those displaced by the tsunami is proving the toughest challenge one year on according to a recent Oxfam International report.

The Oxfam report, ‘A Place to Stay, A Place to Live’, shows that there has been major progress in providing shelter to the millions of people displaced by the tsunami – but that progress is uneven and faster reconstruction has been blocked by a range of factors.

The report also shows Oxfam Australia’s substantial contribution in the form of sustainable timber to Sri Lanka.

The report shows how:

– The emergency response phase rapidly provided all those who needed it with emergency shelter.
– In Sri Lanka around 95% of people have now moved into transitional shelters.
– In the worst affected Indian state of Tamil Nadu, plans have already been drawn up for more than 31,000 homes.
– Around a quarter of the permanent houses needed in Aceh are expected to have been built by the end of December.
– Oxfam Australia has already built 1925 transitional shelters in Sri Lanka and, as part of the Oxfam International response, and another 710 permanent houses in Aceh at the end of December 2005.

The size of the task, according to the report, is equivalent to rebuilding the city of Brisbane.

The report sets out the key blocks to faster progress. Some of these were impossible to avoid, such as the fact that in Aceh land that housed at least 120,000 people has been permanently submerged.

Other delays could have been avoided:

– Governments have been slow to allocate new and appropriate land for rebuilding.
– Lack of government clarity over coastal buffer zones delayed rebuilding. In Aceh a 2km exclusion zone was introduced and it was not until June that permanent shelter reconstruction could really get underway. In Sri Lanka the buffer zone was changed as recently as October. In India, the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) has made the search for land for new housing more difficult.

Other delays identified by the report include a lack of experience of mass shelter construction on this scale among NGOs, the need to consult communities fully and real problems in sourcing building materials.

In Aceh access to devastated areas has been severely hampered by lack of infrastructure, including roads and ports, and the price of timber has tripled since the tsunami.

According to the report, these obstacles have meant that progress, though substantial in many areas, has been uneven, with some people already in permanent houses while others remain in tents.

As part of the shelter program, Oxfam Australia imported 8,500 cubic meters of sustainably grown and harvested Australian plantation pine at the request of the Sri Lankan government which identified a shortage of local wood. This has been the biggest shipment of timber from a single source into Sri Lanka and the biggest shipment of timber to a single source from Australia.

A consortium of international and local NGOs have started using this timber in transitional and permanent shelter programs.

Oxfam is pushing governments to do more to provide appropriate land to all those who need it and training local communities to claim the land and property that they are entitled to.

The report also gives examples of the timescale for other reconstruction projects:

– In America, one year after Hurricane Ivan, thousands of families in Florida are still living in temporary shelters.
– In Japan it took the city of Kobe 7 years to recover from the 1995 earthquake.

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