Oxfam clarifies comments about earthquake shelter

“We’re saying that 1.8 million men, women and children are living in some form of makeshift shelter, a minority of which are tents”
Farhana Faruqi Stocker
Oxfam GB
Published: 9 October 2006

Aid agency says description of people in makeshift homes was misinterpreted

Aid agency Oxfam International has today clarified comments about earthquake survivors’ living conditions after it was misquoted by some media organizations.

The agency emphasised that its report released Wednesday – “Keeping Recovery on Course” – says 1.8 million people are living in tents and other makeshift shelter – not in tents alone as some media reported.

“We’re saying that 1.8 million men, women and children are living in some form of makeshift shelter, a minority of which are tents,” said Farhana Faruqi Stocker, head of Oxfam GB in Pakistan. “Snow is already falling and thousands of families need help to access materials that will strengthen their shelters and help keep them warm.”

“We’re pleased that some media organizations who misquoted us have now corrected their reports of what we said,” added Stocker.

Oxfam has said that according to the government’s own figures, less than a fifth of the affected 450,000 households had begun rebuilding permanent homes before the end of September.

That left the remaining 80% – 360,000 families – who have been unable to begin rebuilding because of a range of complex issues. These problems include the limited technical resources available in the face of such a massive disaster plus the fact that thousands of people lost their lands permanently and could not return home.

Around 40,000 people are known to be in tents in camps or temporary settlements. However, the vast majority of those 1.8 million people who have not rebuilt permanent homes are living in forms of makeshift shelters. These are commonly made from various combinations of corrugated iron sheets, wood, mud and rubble.

“Our concern is that people in makeshift shelters may not be adequately prepared for a winter that seems to have come early. Hundreds of thousands of people, who over the past year have lost family members, assets and livelihoods, live in hard-to-reach rural areas,” said Stocker.

“The government has recently issued plans to upgrade both the camps and help people in remote rural areas acquire materials to improve their shelters and stay warm. Unless we move fast to implement these plans and correctly identify the most vulnerable, thousands will suffer when temperatures fall to zero.”

Oxfam also seeks to clarify its views on the issue of local corruption, which became the focus of some reports.

“Echoing findings by Pakistani authorities and humanitarian organizations, our report mentions cases of exploitation by some local revenue office staff and landlords. This has aggravated the general problems faced by earthquake survivors. It is widely acknowledged that some low level corruption has occurred and we welcome the government’s actions to reduce risks and punish offenders.”

Oxfam’s report says that much has been achieved in the aftermath of the earthquake. It says a second humanitarian crisis was averted last winter thanks to the efforts of Pakistani authorities, aid agencies, local NGOs and donors. Subsequently, the foundations of a sustainable recovery have been laid with money and technical advice disbursed to thousands of affected households to help rebuild their homes to earthquake resistant standards.

“However, the scale of the catastrophe, difficult mountainous terrain, poor infrastructure, extreme weather conditions, problems with disseminating public information, as well as gaps in support for some vulnerable groups, have hindered the pace of reconstruction,” said Oxfam.

On Thursday, Pakistan asked for an extra $800 million in aid because another 200,000 new homes would need to be built than had previously been thought.

“The size of the task facing the government and the humanitarian community is clearly enormous and the scale of difficulties and hardship facing the earthquake survivors should therefore not be underestimated,” said Stocker.

“We can keep this recovery on course but only by focussing on the key issues and ensuring that help is provided promptly to those who need it. Oxfam International and other agencies will continue to support the government’s aims to keep survivors safe and well while they rebuild their lives and construct stronger, more resilient communities than existed before,” added Stocker.

In the six months after the earthquake, Oxfam assisted around one million survivors. It provided water and sanitation facilities for approximately 580,000 men, women, and children. It also distributed winterized tents and transitional shelter kits to 370,000 people and helped nearly 60,000 people rebuild their livelihoods.

Oxfam is now repairing and building water and sanitation programs for around 220,000 people, including 130 hard-to-reach mountainous areas and village schools. It is also providing water and sanitation assistance to around 10,000 people still in camps. Oxfam is helping over 90,000 people to rebuild their livelihoods through cash for work, providing agricultural support, and helping village traders re-establish their businesses.

Working with its local partner organizations, Oxfam is planning to deliver another $10 million of assistance to earthquake survivors in the coming two years.

Contact Information

For more information, please contact:
Oxfam Senior Media Officer Shaheen Chughtai on (92) 300 856 0632 or schughtai@oxfam.org.uk , or Oxfam National Media Officer Daud Malik on (92) 300 856 9312 or dmalik@oxfam.org.uk