Disasters affect everyone, the poor and the wealthy. However, it is often the poor who are left worse off – they live on the most vulnerable land, their houses are the least stable, and they have very little in the way of capital reserves to rebuild their lives.
Responding to a disaster is a continuum. It begins before a disaster. We work with families and communities to help them build resilience, so that when a disaster happens, their homes are better prepared for the forces of nature and they can respond more effectively.
Habitat for Humanity uses a disaster response framework called Pathways to Permanence. This framework acknowledges that there are multiple pathways towards permanent durable shelter, and helps to make decisions about appropriate disaster responses - from “provider” roles (where shelters products are given away), to more sustainable “enabler” roles helping people as a partner in their own reconstruction process.
This is usually done as a consortium with other specialist agencies so that there is a broad and sustainable impact. We focus disaster risk reduction programmes on countries that are most disaster prone.
Following a disaster there is an assessment where Habitat for Humanity staff spend time analysing the situation and then offer a number of pathways to permanent housing.
People in different situations have different needs and so will be on different pathways.
For example, one group of people may have houses which are damaged but still repairable, and all they need is an emergency shelter kit comprising essential tools and materials to make their repairs.
Another family without any land may need a temporary shelter while a permanent shelter is built.
Yet another group may just need some cash vouchers so that they can go to their building centre and begin to rebuild their houses by themselves, perhaps supplemented with their own resources.
A disaster response programme can sometimes lead into a regular programme. When there is a need to build permanent homes we often focus on the core house concept. It is permanent, yet small, but meets the standards for quality and space. This leads into the regular programme where a family will then take out a loan to extend their home. This value for money approach allows funds to go much further and meet the needs of many more people.
Habitat Resource Centres support this process. The centres look at the supply gaps in the market place and seek to meet these through such things as providing training in construction skills, vocational training, small business development training, managing a small building project, financial skills training, and training in hygiene. The list is determined by the particular need.
A Habitat Resource Centre may also provide materials if they are not available locally, or are too expensive.
An important part of the Habitat Resource Centre is to add value to the recovery effort and leave the community stronger and better prepared for the next disaster event.
In disaster response programmes we also seek to use the programme to add additional layers of benefit, be that vocational training, supporting the development of small and medium business in the construction sector, or community contracting – allowing the community to come up with their ideas for development and helping them with finance and support to achieve their community ideals.
It took five years to help 25,000 families following the 2004 Asian Tsunami and three years to help 50,000 families in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake.
You can also read about Habitat for Humanity's work in Japan following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Habitat for Humanity also works in several countries that are recovering from instability.