Sunday, November 18 2018

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UN funds give poor residents disaster-resistant houses

Update: November, 08/2018 - 10:00
Heavy flooding occurs annually in Quảng Điền District. — VNS Photo Phước Bửu
Viet Nam News

Phước Bửu

THỪA THIÊN-HUẾ — Nguyễn Hùng, a paralysed lottery ticket seller in the central province of Thừa Thiên-Huế, has finally got his dream house. Part of funding for construction came from a housing programme run by the UNDP.

Hùng, a 50-year-old resident of Sịa Township in the province’s Quảng Điền District, said his humble income is sufficient for feeding his three children. He is unable to use one leg and this prevents him from farming or construction jobs which have higher salaries.

Quảng Điền is one of the lowest lying areas in the province, with inundation sometimes lasting for a month. The condition means his family are some of the most vulnerable to floods. 

“In 1999, a historic flood occurred in the province and my old house was flooded almost to the roof. My family and others in this area had to evacuate,” said Hùng. “Since then, we have lived in the fear and I dreamed of a better house.”

His dream came true this year after he joined a UNDP housing programme, in which the UN development body gave him half of the construction cost and the other half was lent by the local Bank for Social Policies.

“Without international funding, I would have never been able to own this good house, built for VNĐ104 million (US$4,500). I have no savings and didn’t dare ask for a bank loan,” said Hùng.

Hùng’s newly-built house is built of concrete, with a living room and a kitchen underneath and a mezzanine floor above. Hùng said the mezzanine would shelter his family in case of flooding. At the same time, Hùng has kept the old house attached to the new structure to give his family more space.

The newly-built house of resident Nguyễn Hùng in Quảng Điền District. Part of the cost came from UNDP funds. — VNS Photo Phước Bửu

According to Akiko Fujii, deputy director of UNDP Country Office in Việt Nam, the housing fund is part of a programme to assist poor families in areas threatened by climate change. Fujii said at a ceremony held in the province handing over 107 houses built with UNDP funds that those houses are “safe structures”, not only for flood resistance but can also protect residents from extreme weather conditions like typhoons.

“The houses have a mezzanine floor to protect residents from floods and their roofs are reinforced to endure strong winds,” she said, adding that the structure of those houses aims to save lives and improve the resilience of the communities as well.

UNDP explained the choice of Thừa Thiên-Huế as a key area for the project due to the high frequency of floods and typhoons. The UN body also targeted the poor, disadvantaged and elderly people to benefit from the project.

The province has a total of 135 families in lowland areas of Quảng Điền, Phong Điền and Hương Trà districts registered with the project, of which 107 households received houses this year and the remainder will get their homes in early 2019.

For each house, the UNDP will provide $1,700 and the remainder comes from contingency costs given by the Government.

The project found difficulties, according to residents in Hải Dương Commune in Hương Trà District, in the mindset of rural families. Those people felt it hard to comply with the material and structural requirements.

Residents in rural areas are often reluctant to follow modern procedures in construction.

However, that seemed to not be the case with some elderly residents taking advantage of the project. The project gave beneficiaries two options - one allows families to use just funds given by UNDP. The other assists residents in accessing preferential bank loans in case they want to spend more on their houses.

The first option is most relevant to the elderly, who are incapable of making bank loan repayments. Trương Vinh, an 81-year-old resident of Quảng Thành Commune in Quảng Điền District, said he is happy with the funded house. Vinh lives with his wife in the commune.

“My wife and I have no worries now. The house is beautiful and we no longer worry about storms, floods, and also debt,” he said. — VNS

 

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