Key for a House, Key to some Dreams

Mar 13, 2016

They had spent weeks out there. They did not have any ‘house’ to go back to. Farida Yeasmin, a 19 year-old young mother, had just given birth to her third child when the flood of 2015, followed by Tropical Storm Komen, forced her and her family to move out of their makeshift home and onto the streets. Although desperate, Farida was in no position to change her circumstances. Unable to overcome their already impoverished living conditions, annual floods and natural disaster events, rendered them even more vulnerable. She had almost grown to expect them, just like she had grown to accept that this was probably how the rest of her life would play out too. However, when she was handed the key to her new house at a local ceremony in Chokoria Upazilla on the 13th of March, the smile would not leave her face. There was an unearthly glow to her, and she carried herself with an unknown sense of self-respect and dignity, as she walked onstage to claim her home.

A high level visit, comprising representatives from the Government of Bangladesh, UNDP, Christian Aid and High Commission of Canada, was undertaken on the 13th of March 2016, in Bheola Manik (BM) Char, Chokoria Upazilla, Cox’s Bazar. The visit was coordinated to oversee the results of a model project implemented to “build back better” overall living conditions of disaster-affected communities, and included an inauguration ceremony as well as site visit. 

Around 2.6 million people in 29 upazillas, were affected by flash flood and then tropical storm “Komen” in June-July 2015. A total of 218,665 households (HHs) were in need of emergency assistance in the affected upazillas, which included BM char, Kakara and Koyer Beel unions in Chokoria Upazilla, Cox's Bazar. Poverty is one the key underlying factors for the extent of the impact of disaster events. About 13.21% of people in Chokoria live under lower poverty line (National Poverty Index, BBS 2015). Approximately about 120,000 people (Upazila Parishad Chokoria, July 2015) resided in cyclone shelters and on the roadside in the aftermath of the cyclone. Early Recovery Facility (ERF) UNDP and Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) Canada, in collaboration with implementing partner Christian Aid and a local NGO called Mukti, have initiated a recovery mission for 80 families in the mentioned target unions of Chokoria, by creating provisions for resilient housing facilities and livelihoods, as a model project.

ERF is an innovative solution of UNDP that works closely with Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief (MoDMR) and Department of Disaster Management (DDM). ERF aims to offer a comprehensive recovery mechanism for disaster-affected, poor households, taking into context added vulnerabilities with regard to weather and land, as well as social conditions. 

Vulnerability was the key deciding factor in Household (HH) selection of the disaster-afflicted families that would receive support through the ERF Flood Resilient Recovery (FRR) project in Chokoria. All HHs are primarily female-headed, where husbands have either died, left or been taken ill for a long period of time, and with numerous dependents. Final list of beneficiaries was endorsed by UP Chairman and UNO, ensuring local government’s active engagement and agreement with project objectives. The owner-driven approach of ERF ensured that HHs played an active role in design of the shelter, as well as in construction and management of materials, of the building process.

The FRR project in Chokoria, encompasses provision of enhanced shelter, livelihood and sanitation facilities. There appears to be lack of health and hygiene awareness, and poor WASH conditions in the target districts, rendering HH members to fall and remain sick often, compromising their living circumstances further. In light of such impoverished conditions, the comprehensiveness of the project is geared to bring about positive change through provision of resilient and hygienic housing facilities with proper sanitation and improved livelihoods. Trainings are to be provided on goat-rearing, poultry-farming, sewing and vegetable businesses, which are IGAs selected on the basis of local demand. Beneficiaries are also being given cash provisions for livelihood opportunities.

Ms. Pauline Tamesis, Chair of the Event, welcomed the Chief Guest Mr. Md Shah Kamal, Secretary, Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, Special Guests Mr. Reaz Ahmed, Director General, Department of Disaster Management and Daniel Loutfi, DFATD, and all guests and beneficiaries, for being present at the event. She was followed by Mr. Shakeb Nabi, Country Director, Christian Aid providing an overview of the project and its activities. Speeches were then made by Special Guests and Chief Guest respectively and the inauguration ceremony was concluded by the delegation handing over a symbolic “house-key” to beneficiary Farida Yeasmin, and handover of houses to the 30 home-owners of BM Char officially.

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