Flood victims start to settle into new homes, earn livelihood
Fifty families uprooted by devastating floods earlier this year in northernmost province of Gilgit-Baltistan have moved into new houses they helped to build with support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The families are the first among thousands of people who will help to build and then reside in disaster-resistant structures in Gilgit-Baltistan where about 87,000 people, or 10 percent of the province’s population, have been displaced by floods and landslides since July.
“One of the first steps in rebuilding lives is to help people get a roof over their heads,” said Abdul Qadir, UNDP Environment Specialist in Pakistan. “Getting people into proper accommodation before winter comes is one of our important goals.”
Some 500 disaster-proof houses are initially planned for about 4,500 people in Gilgit-Baltistan’s Hunza Nagar and Ghizer districts and in the Chitral region of neighbouring Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. In these combined areas, more than 3,300 houses were destroyed or damaged, affecting more than 29,000 people and killing 192.
The houses, made of poplar wood, stone masonry and water-resistant roofs, are each 400 square feet and cost the equivalent of US$1,000. The interior -- living room, kitchen, storage space, and washroom -- is insulated to protect inhabitants from harsh winters.
Inhabitants themselves were involved in digging the houses’ foundations and collecting stones for their construction as part of an income-generating programme run by UNDP for local flood-affected populations.
One recipient of a house in Gilgit, Bibi Roshan, 54 and mother of six children, is due to move into her new accommodation at the end of this month: “This house is a blessing,” she said. “It has brought new light and hope to our lives after I lost everything, my house, my land and my cattle.”
Responding to the huge need for shelter and the success of the Gilgit housing project, UNDP will build houses in other parts of the country, especially in Sindh province’s worst-affected Thatta district where an estimated one million people have been displaced by the floods.
The efforts are part of US$120 million early recovery programme launched by the Government of Pakistan and UNDP to restore livelihoods through job creation, repair of basic community infrastructure, and strengthening of local government offices.
UNDP shifted from its pre-existing programme activities as soon as the floods started in order to reach the worst affected communities. It had already piloted disaster-resistant and energy-efficient houses as part of infrastructure strengthening efforts.