The reconstruction phase was officially launched in mid-June 2016. Based on our survey, and with technical assistance from an architectural firm, a model house plan was designed based on the vernacular architecture of the area and using locally manufactured construction materials.
Batches of 4–5 houses were contracted out simultaneously, following RMF protocols for the project. 19 houses had been completely destroyed and were reconstructed according to the model house design, modified on a case-by-case basis. A total of 22 houses were identified as partially damaged and repaired according to the needs of the resident family. An orphanage housing 70 young boys was also partially damaged due to the earthquake, rendering an entire dormitory uninhabitable and the dining hall unusable. Repairs carried out at the orphanage were nearly equivalent to the budget of 3 repair case houses. Hence, our proposed target, the reconstruction and repair of 44 houses, was successfully met within 9 months and concluded with a formal handing over and closing ceremony titled “Celebrating Success with Communities” on March 18th, 2017.
The housing project was approved by RMF’s funding partner, LDS Charities, on June 4th, 2016. Following the initial steps of signing the MOU and receiving the wire transfers of funds, the project was launched officially in Pakistan on June 13th, 2016. All the background work, which included seeking permission from the relevant authorities and registering the project with the local district office, had been carried out in the preceding months.
The project was initiated by revisiting our list of 44 households for a final round of review and verification, as more than three months had elapsed since our needs assessment survey, making re-evaluation mandatory for an up-to-date needs status of our selected families.
RMF’s approach to reconstruction of housing in disaster affected areas is based on the vernacular architectural approach. Vernacular architecture is a type of architecture that is based on local needs, local construction materials, and reflecting local traditions.
Based on the qualitative component of our shelter needs assessment, specifically on interviews with the women of the households, we came up with a model home that fit the cultural and gender requirements of the Swat society. Our shelter data collection strategy involved women of each household we visited. With their collective input, we came up with a model house.
As per RMF protocols and policy to benefit local traders, all the building materials used were locally manufactured.
As per RMF policy, all construction vendors were hired from the local community.
Once the most cost-effective contractor was chosen, a contract was chalked out based on a generic template (both in English and Urdu), which was developed with the assistance of our technical advisors. Modifications were made according to each case depending on the extent of repair and the area available for house construction.
The contract was made between three parties: RMF, the construction contractor, and the owner/resident of the house. The reason for including the recipient household head was to allow him or her to play a participatory role, which would introduce a sense of ownership of the project.
The project staff for Phase II was lean, composed of a two-member team in the field: The Field Supervisor and Field Officer. The Project Manager and Finance Bookkeeper were based in the head office in Islamabad. All team members reported to the senior management of RMF Pakistan’s office.
Long distance house building operations in a far-flung, remote area of Swat with its own unique, local construction culture involved several challenges:
On a positive note, procurement and transportation of building materials did not face any challenges. Additionally, the security of valuable materials lying in the open did not present any issues.
On October 26, 2015, at 14.09 hrs, an earthquake of magnitude 7.7 hit the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan. The epicenter was centered in Badakhsan Province of Afghanistan, 76 Km north of the Chitral border of Pakistan.
The earthquake luckily spared extreme damage to infrastructure of the affected areas, hence the low rate of mortality and morbidity but remote villages tucked deep in the folds of the mountains composed of mud and wood have succumbed to the quake tremors rendering whole villages shelter less. Also the event triggered off a series of landslides in the mountainous regions that, in the face of the impending winter where it has been raining and snowing in some regions, led to power outages in many places and road blocks, isolating large tracts of areas where people are in need.
1. To provide immediate relief shelter
2. To provide immediate relief food
3. To provide immediate health care
4. To assist in rebuilding of destroyed homes
An orphanage was also selected for repair of the damage suffered due to the earthquake. Although the location of this orphanage was in a neighboring district to Swat, they reached out to us when they heard of our housing project. On visiting the premises, RMF learned that the orphanage houses over 70 boys, ages 7–16 years. The earthquake had completely destroyed the roof of one dormitory that held 16 boys’ beds. The 16 boys had been moved to other dormitories which were already fully occupied, forcing the children to share beds. The kitchen and dining room had also sustained damage that led to meals being cooked and served in the courtyard. Additional damage included cracks in the wall. Because this was an old building (of more than 80–90 years), these cracks had led to seepage of water from drainage, rainwater, and at one place, also septic tank leakage. All this damage had left parts of the orphanage uninhabitable or unusable.
Special permission was sought from our RMF USA head office to take up this case, as it was a deviation from the MOU project site. Based on the high-impact benefits of assisting so many vulnerable children within our limited budget, consent was granted.
The orphanage has a history of over 60 years of providing shelter to needy boys, and was set up by a local family who donated the land and building. Hence, the building is old and semi-decrepit. The orphanage management is employed staff, but is overseen by two young men from the above-mentioned family who volunteer there part-time. Repairs of the damage were carried out over three months.
The formal handing over of the houses and celebrating the project’s successful completion was carried out with the communities on March 18th, 2017. Since our project spanned across 15 union councils in two tehsils, it was not possible to have a closing ceremony in only one location, as that that would have been a logistic challenge in terms of arranging transportation for all our project beneficiaries. Therefore, three separate formal closing ceremonies were conducted in three different locations, all on the same day. All three events followed the same agenda, and each had a local leader of that community as the guest of honor.