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Emerging stronger: Five years after the Indian Ocean Tsunami

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At a Glance

Scale

- The Indian Ocean tsunami was one of the worst natural disasters in recent history. Upwards of 225,000 people died or disappeared and more than one million more were displaced.

- Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand were the hardest hit among 14 affected countries; the scale and extent of the destruction of housing was unprecedented.

Challenges

- Relief and reconstruction efforts were complicated by difficulties reaching remote communities, dealing with high levels of existing poverty, coordinating the unprecedented scale of the response, and working within changing government policies and regulations.

- Land tenure issues - and lack of documentation proving legal ownership - created additional hurdles.

- Changing policies and regulations on resettlement and rebuilding close to the shoreline delayed reconstruction in some locations.

- The response in Indonesia and Sri Lanka required working in areas plagued by political tension and civil conflict.

Response

- The international community was generous, producing a commitment worth at least US$13.5 billion in a matter of months.

- In many places, the response to shelter needs was to focus on providing temporary accommodation in the first year, postponing the construction of permanent housing.

- The global Habitat for Humanity donor community raised the equivalent of more than US$78 million for Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

- Habitat for Humanity responded quickly, beginning with on-the-ground assessments of shelter needs and focusing on creating permanent housing solutions.

- In Indonesia, Thailand and parts of India, Habitat for Humanity's response included creating capacity in areas where local national programs had no presence prior to December 2004.

Strategies

Habitat's response emphasized:

- community-based strategies involving local people in decision making;

- encouraging families to rebuild their homes on site within their original communities;

- a preference for a simple core house design that could be extended later;

- using economies of scale by establishing Habitat Resource Centers;

- working with partners to reach more families;

- a focus on the poor;

- mobilizing Habitat's network of volunteers to assist; and

- planning to assist others in need in neighboring areas who had not been directly affected by the tsunami and those likely to be affected by future natural disasters.

Progress

- By September 2009, Habitat for Humanity had built, rehabilitated or repaired homes for around 22,500 families and was on course for assisting an estimated 25,000 families by the end of 2010 when Habitat expects to have completed its post-tsunami reconstruction work.

- A successful pilot disaster-mitigation and preparedness program on the east coast of India has been extended to benefit a further 27,000 families.

- Programs in Thailand, Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka have built up significant capabilities in and around tsunami-affected areas, and are operating regular Habitat repayment-based programs reaching other impoverished families and communities.

- Habitat's work has received recognition including awards from the Indonesian and Sri Lanka governments and the US-based Fritz Institute.