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Moving FAST to Meet Shelter Needs for Returnees and Refugees in Jalalabad

Published 06/23/2011 by Global Communities

Moving FAST to Meet Shelter Needs for Returnees and Refugees in Jalalabad
In October, 2009 USAID/OFDA funded a CHF project to meet the pressing shelter needs of urban returnee families living in overcrowded conditions in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. Within days of the award, CHF was on the ground in Jalalabad, hired the first staff and began the process of community entry and project implementation.
As originally envisioned, CHF was targeted to provide 850 rooms of traditional mud brick design and corresponding latrine upgrades to relieve the severe overcrowding conditions and sanitation deficiencies common to many of the returnee households. By late October, an office was opened and an initial survey of households in the city districts where CHF would work was started. As a cost saving measure and as an avenue to support struggling local university students, CHF utilized university student interns to carry out the survey and provided them with a daily stipend for their work. This proved to be both an economical way to complete the survey, provided a good work experience for the students and made economical use of program resources by not hiring permanent survey staff whose functions would no longer be needed once the survey was completed.
Concurrent with the survey, CHF met with Jalalabad city officials for introductions, securing their support for CHF’s planned shelter work and to determine what community infrastructure cash for work supported projects were municipal priorities. From the time of the initial meeting, the Mayor’s Office and related city officials conveyed that they did not support the construction of traditional mud brick structures within the city. Officials explained that they wanted to upgrade the housing stock in the city and ideally, the CHF shelters could be a model for that. They went on to express their concern that non-permanent solutions such as mud brick would quickly deteriorate and ultimately fall into use as livestock shelters. Further, they were not comfortable with the introduction of additional pit latrines that might continue to exacerbate the unsanitary conditions present in many of the neighborhoods due to effluent going into the street and the related uncontained smell within the compounds and neighborhoods.
This was a challenge for CHF due budgetary constraints related to the initial donor approval of a mud brick design. The city, to their credit, wanted the best for their residents by insisting on fire brick structures that were weather proof, permanent in nature, supportive of durable return and ultimately relieve overcrowding.
In response to municipal and other stakeholder concerns, CHF began to identify and explore multiple options with the communities and municipal officials. Because FAST was initially planned as a self help housing effort that would involve beneficiaries picking up shelter materials from a central warehouse, transporting them to their home site and then constructing the shelters utilizing traditional methods, CHF determined that this methodology would not be workable with a more sophisticated shelter model. The concept behind the final strategy was that all components that were structurally critical to provide seismic resistance had to be constructed by qualified contractors, while the components that are not structurally critical could be constructed by the beneficiaries.
CHF proceeded to design and present to the city and neighborhood representatives a shelter design that would utilize local contractors to:

Build a crucial stone and concrete foundation in a designated location within the compound excavated by the beneficiary;

Pour a steel reinforced concrete lower ring beam;

Construct steel reinforced, seismically resistant concrete columns at each corner of the room;

Construct a steel reinforced, seismically resistant concrete top ring beam;

Install roof steel I-Beams that are welded to the top ring beam for reinforcement and install fired clay roof panels under a thin gypsum layer upon which beneficiaries will install the mud and straw roof slab

Supply a door and a window for beneficiary installation;

Install a water borne latrine and septic system in a beneficiary excavated location within the compound. The system consists of two concrete ringed chambers, each two meters deep and connected with a pvc pipe to each other and to a porcelain squat pan that are built into a concrete floor slab on stone foundations.

Supply a door and frame for the toilet. The beneficiary builds the walls and roof of the toilet.

In order to provide opportunities to local contractors and to insure that the success of the project would not rest in the hands of just a few contractors, CHF distributed comprehensive tender packages to over thirty pre-screened contractors. Selected contractors were initially issued task orders for not more than 10 shelters at a time. This allowed for evaluating quality of work against issued specifications, helped insure timeliness of completion and overall contractor ability to perform. Well performing contractors were awarded additional task orders consisting of 10 to 12 shelters per order. Underperforming contractors (which were few) agreed in advance to wait for payment until their deficiencies were corrected and accepted by CHF engineers. Contractors that did not comply with CHF standards and specifications were not issued with additional task orders. This methodology resulted in a boost to the local construction industry, use of local materials and consistently high shelter quality delivered in a timely manner.
When the contractor finishes with his work, the beneficiary has a durable, seismically resistant and permanent house framework without walls. The beneficiary then has to supply the materials and construct and plaster the walls on the inside. He has the option of utilizing mud brick for his walls and receives an allowance ranging between $200 and $300 (depending on room size), to accommodate his mud brick acquisition costs, interior wall plastering and labor for completing the work. If the beneficiary so chooses, he can utilize his own resources to procure fire brick instead of mud brick for the wall construction as an option that is more compatible with the permanent framework described above. More than 90% of the beneficiaries have chosen the fire brick option and supported the additional cost themselves. When polled, most of the beneficiaries who opted for mud brick because it was more affordable for them initially, stated that they will demolish their mud brick walls and replace them with fire brick as soon as their economic circumstances allow. The CHF design easily accommodates such follow on modifications.
Experience has demonstrated that the beneficiary, who is not displaced from his home during construction and stays with his family in existing rooms during construction, often works alongside with the contractor. The contractor is then able to advise the beneficiary on the best practices for completing the beneficiary share of the work and with this combined effort the end result is a shelter of high quality and consistent workmanship.
The unanswered question remains: Where did the additional money come from to support a permanent instead of the funded transitional housing model? The answer lies in a combination of cost savings derived from project operating costs, community contribution encouraged by a durable end product, local government endorsement and support and the foresight and creativity of a highly qualified CHF International Shelter practitioner, Ralph Kilian.
SHELTER EXPERT: CHF INTERNATIONAL’s Ralph Kilian Ralph is a native South African who first joined CHF in 1997. Applying the skills acquired as an independent contractor, Ralph became the CHF Shelter Program Manager for projects serving Township communities in the vicinity of his Port Elizabeth hometown. After two years, Ralph accepted his first CHF international assignment in post conflict Kosovo, returned to South Africa for two years and then spent four years with CHF in Afghanistan, establishing CHF as one of the most “can do” shelter and infrastructure INGO’s operating in the country. Ralph moved on to run shelter related programs in post conflict Liberia and post disaster Sri Lanka and Indonesia. He has also managed construction projects in Pakistan. He has the distinction of being both one of CHF’s most experienced shelter specialists and a time proven master in the art of designing and implementing locally appropriate shelter solutions. Ralph’s creativity, skill and patience have consistently resulted in bringing many diverse community stakeholders to “yes” and decent, safe shelter to the lives of many families.

FAST was budgeted for a relatively large security budget, an office, a separate guest house and a materials warehouse for storage and distribution of shelter materials. All three locations would have requirements for security coverage and operational staffing.
By utilizing a carefully designed and trained local security team employed and managed directly by a local CHF Security manager, eliminating a guest house and alternatively using the office as a residence and an office significant savings were realized. The originally budgeted warehouse and related staffing costs were eliminated altogether by having the contractors be responsible for the onsite provision and security of materials they supplied resulted in more savings. This combination of savings was redirected into providing high quality shelters and extending shelter assistance to an additional 55 families.
An unanticipated benefit of the high level of acceptance and new quality benchmark represented by the CHF Jalalabad shelter model has been the construction of additional rooms emulating the CHF model by approximately 10% of our beneficiaries. They have managed to borrow funds from a variety of sources to construct their rooms and after years of displacement and overcrowding, finally have an avenue for securing safe and decent housing.