Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Red Cross defends pace of post-tsunami reconstruction

Jerry Talbot, head of Maldives delegation, for International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Socieities (IFRC) has defended the pace of reconstruction of homes for people affected by the tsunami.

There has been criticism of the pace of reconstruction, and we accept that for people whose homes and livelihoods were destroyed, each day of waiting is a day too long. But from the outset we said that the recovery operation would take more than two years. We will not compromise quality for the sake of speed. Tsunami survivors deserve the best assistance that we can offer, and our experience shows that this takes time.

Furthermore, the success of the recovery effort cannot simply be determined by the number of houses that have been built. Long-term Red Cross Red Crescent recovery efforts are not focused solely on building and reconstructing houses. Permanent shelter is undeniably important, but people didn’t just lose their homes to the tsunami. They lost schools, access to health care and clean water. They lost their livelihoods, their community centres, and most tragically, they lost family members and friends.
Talbot acknowledges that there was limited participation of tsunami survivors in crucial decision-making processes.

The SPHERE project, which outlines the minimum standards for disaster response, states that people affected by a disaster should “have access to an ongoing, reliable flow of credible information”, as well as channels that allow them to communicate with agencies involved in the operation.

In the initial phase of the tsunami recovery operation, international organizations, including the Red Cross and Red Crescent, often failed to meet this important standard. In the rush to provide relief and assistance, the voices of tsunami survivors were often not included in programme planning and implementation.

However, the Red Cross Red Crescent has taken significant steps to rectify this. Across the tsunami-affected region, survivors are now increasingly involved in all stages of the Red Cross Red Crescent effort. In Aceh and in the Maldives, Red Cross and Red Crescent interactive radio shows–serve as a forum for beneficiaries to speak their minds and to raise issues and concerns about the recovery operation.

There have been complaints from tsunami-affected people that the homes that are built for them are not up to their expectations. In many cases there have been limited or no participation of the tsunami survivors in the decision-making process. This has in turn resulted in various complications in several islands. Red Cross now seems to make more efforts to engage the people in the recovery process, as evident from this Dhivehi Observer report.

In a rare media appearance, Jill Clements, the Head of the British Red Cross Mission to the Maldives, on 27 November 2006 told the Maldives media that community participation is key to peaceful transition of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to Thaa atoll Vilufushi. One of the worst hit islands during the tsunami of December 2004, many of the Vilufushi IDPs now live in cramped temporary shelters in neighbouring host island Buruni.
Jill also briefed the media on a unique approach adapted by the British Red Cross with regard to identifying who are most vulnerable and who will get the 250 homes to be built by the BRCS in Vilufushi. She said that the process will be participatory and transparent.

BRCS has acquired the help of a New Delhi based institute called Praxis, an institute credited with "promoting participatory practices".

Previous attempts to rebuild another island, Kolhufushi in Meemu Atoll, was halted because of disagreements between government, residents and NGOs over where houses should be situated. However, with the lessons learnt from Kolhufushi, BRCS turned to people power, and with the assistance of a 16-member committee elected by Vilufushi community, BRCS is presently cross checking information collected, making necessary amendments upon the advise of the committee and the Vilufushi community at large. A free hotline, 800 332 0852, has now been established so that Vilufushi residents not living in temporary shelters in Buruni but living in Male', Hulhumale and Vilingili, can be facilitated to contact the focal station in Buruni.

However, the DO report also outlines some of the on going complaints of the Vilufushi people. One of the concerns is that the new houses to be constructed for them would not be adequate enough to house large extended families.

"Nobody under the age of 50 owns a home of his own in Vilufushi. It has been too decades since the government gave any land plots to new families," a disgruntled Vilufushi resident, who wanted to be identified only as Maniku, told DO.

"There are many cases where many extended families live under one roof. But under the government's 'a house for a house' policy, it is absurd if the government expects families of 20 to 40 members living in 3-room apartments."

More posts from our archive about the tsunami survivors from Thaa Atoll Vilufushi:
Waiting for news from Thaa Atoll
Sick and Injured from Thaa Atoll
Filled with emotion
Sad reunion
Heartbreaking news from Thaa Atoll
Ocean-10 in silence


Post a Comment

<< Home