8th i-Rec conference

A snapshot of the Promoting Safer Building project as it was presented at the i-Rec Conference in Canada earlier this month.

The main goal of i-Rec conferences is to contribute to disaster reconstruction and recovery knowledge and its applications in disaster impacted populations through interdisciplinary research and information sharing with various stakeholders. The 2017 i-Rec conference seeks to understand how disaster recovery and reconstruction knowledge and practice can contribute to the recovery and reconstruction of displaced and refugee populations. – i-Rec

Our research

Globally, exposure to natural hazards is increasing as more people, assets and livelihoods are in hazard prone places. The pressures on the humanitarian architecture pushes for different way of approaching humanitarian response, refugees and migration. As Priority 4 of the Sendai Framework recognises, there is a need to ‘enhance disaster preparedness for effective response and to “Build Back Better” in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction’.

The Promoting Safer Building project seeks to understand how individuals, households & communities can be supported to rebuild after a disaster in a more resilient way. One aim is to understand more on Self Recovery, how people recover with or without assistance from the international community. Putting the idea of supporting this process at centre stage, as a modality for supporting people after disasters.

Self-recovery programmes, often propose that all support should be directed towards the ultimate aim of a safer permanent house. Self recovery also includes livelihoods, WASH, environment, infrastructure, and all those other pieces. While the term has often been used in the shelter sector, it is now increasingly used in other areas of recovery such as livelihoods, recognising the variety of responses needed to recover after a disaster.

The fieldwork was carried out in the Philippines looking at communities affected by Typhoons Haiyan (2013) and Haima (2016) and in Nepal looking at recovery following the Gorkha Earthquake in 2015. Bringing together geologist, engineers, social scientists & practitioners, creating a multidisciplinary team.

The research sought to understand how these different elements shape the recovery processes and consider how different contexts and timescales have an impact on the process.

For our findings stay tuned on our upcoming publications that will be disseminated through this blog!

Where the research is going or where it could go…

All research into self-recovery after disaster is fairly recent and it has largely concentrated on rural communities that have been affected, but not displaced, by ‘natural’ events such as storms, earthquakes and flooding. Gaps in the research are found on understanding self-recovery in contexts of  conflict, refugees, forced displacement, and how it applies to protracted crisis.

Of the 60 million refugees and IDPs displaced across the world, only 30% are housed by international organisations. The remaining 70% are in rented accommodation, hosted by friends and family, sleeping rough or in home-made makeshift shelters – in one way or another they are “self-recovering”.

But is self recovery the right term? Does it appropriately describe the process that displaced communities are feeling – can involuntary or forced displacement be a recovery process? Self reliance and resilience could be more useful terms for refugee contexts perhaps? These are questions the need to be further explored.

Key messages

  1. Those affected by disasters are the first to respond, and the first to start making decisions, and the first to start recovery. Understanding a community’s self-recovery pathway will ensure that interventions support people’s needs and priorities, and promote ownership. It will also help support sustainable policies and practice that can help reduce loss of life, assets and livelihoods
  2. Adequate support and technical assistance must be provided to reassure families that their structures comply with BBS and building code messages, which will promote a sense of ‘safety’
  3. Housing construction should not be isolated from other interconnected aspects of recovery, such as wash, livelihoods, health, etc.
  4. Connection to construction and geography, locations of building. Environmental understanding was very limited.  Needs to be greater research and attention paid into awareness of people.
  5. Where does the risk lie and where are you placing the risk? Living on the no-build zone in Philippines as that’s where their livelihoods are, we can’t help rebuild as its illegal, is there other ways we can support them with their choice.  Find ways in which the control remains with people.  Role we can play as knowledge intermediaries, ensuring people are making informed choices.  Nepal in rural areas people DO want to move, but not sure where to go.  Waiting for a govt grant and they aren’t getting information as well.

A BIG Thank you goes to Kevin Dunbar, Deputy Director, Humanitarian Operations for CARE Canada, who was there to present the project on the 1st and 2nd of June and who contributed to this blog.

Presenting at i-Rec, Toronto, Canada
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