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Quake-resistant homes for violence survivors

A transitional shelter being built in Bazar-Kurgan district in southern Jalalabad province in October Alimbek Tashtankulov/IRIN
Hundreds of people who lost their homes during ethnic clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan in June are moving into new earthquake-resistant "transitional" dwellings: about 2,000 will be completed by the end of November, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

"They [the new shelters] were constructed according to the Kyrgyz law in order to be earthquake resistant. They are far better than the usual kind of construction people have here," said Ronald Manila, a shelter project coordinator for ACTED, a UNHCR implementing partner.

"It's all done with baked bricks, reinforced steel in the foundation, a seismic beam around the top. So those three things combined are certainly better than the old building," he told IRIN, pointing to the remains of a house destroyed during the violence in the southern town of Jalalabad. All of Kyrgyzstan is located in a seismically active zone.

According to UNHCR, about 2,000 private housing compounds were damaged and about 1,700 completely destroyed in clashes that left 13,440 people homeless in parts of the southern provinces of Osh and Jalalabad. UNHCR committed to constructing roughly 80 percent of "transitional" shelters, while the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) agreed to build the remaining 20 percent.

"This is about a 42 sq m transitional shelter," Manila said, pointing to a newly completed two-roomed structure. "There are nine family members registered in it, however, right after the conflict some left for Russia, either for work or [to avoid insecurity]. Hopefully, some of them might start returning after the shelter is done. It cost US$5,000 plus in terms of material, and then there was $800 labour contribution. The exterior and interior plastering and painting is done by the beneficiaries themselves."

The new homes are called "transitional" because they are basic shelters, sufficient enough to last the winter, but come the spring can be expanded by the families to about 100 sq m and become proper homes.

Rate my new home
Snow load – 48.0 kg/sq m
Wind load – 20.0 kg/sq m
Roof slope 30 Degrees (Kyrgyz Building Code min. 28)
Designed for winter external air temperature of minus 15 degrees Celcius
Regional seismicity of 9 points on Richter scale
Building design seismicity of 9 points on Richter scale
Source: UNHCR
"The whole structure is compact and is stronger than a larger building and with this [seismic] reinforcement it should be stronger than the old buildings, where there were mud bricks and no reinforced beams ... These are certainly much better in terms of quake resistance than old traditional houses," Jens Pake, a senior shelter consultant to the Danish Refugee Council, another UNHCR implementing partner, told IRIN in Jalalabad's Bazar-Korgon district.

Natalia Prokopchuk, a spokeswoman for UNHCR in Kyrgyzstan, said the UNHCR shelter followed the Building Code of Kyrgyzstan and had been designed after consulting various bodies, including the State Directorate for Reconstruction and Rehabilitation, the Kyrgyz consulting firm TUMATAI, engineers and experts, government department architects and engineers, and seismic institute experts. 

Construction took place in consultation with the engineers and experts of Jalalabad and Bazar Korgon, the State Directorate for Reconstruction and Rehabilitation, the Danish Refugee Council, and UNHCR experts.

More than 50 percent of shelters were finished and ready for occupation by 15 November, and all shelters would be finished, heated and occupied before the onset of winter, UNHCR said in a statement.

Over the last four weeks nearly 500 families in Osh and Jalalabad provinces have moved into shelters built with UNHCR assistance, and1,200 are expected to follow suit in the last two weeks of November.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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