Pakistan: New homes for Punjab’s poorest

25 April, 2014
2014, Punjab, Pakistan: Asho Mai and some of her children stand proudly in front of their new home. The small shelter was built by an NGO with funding from the OCHA-managed Emergency Response Fund. Credit: CESVI
2014, Punjab, Pakistan: Asho Mai and some of her children stand proudly in front of their new home. The small shelter was built by an NGO with funding from the OCHA-managed Emergency Response Fund. Credit: CESVI

Asho Mai, 50, lived with her family of nine in a one-room house in Rajanpur District, in Pakistan’s north-western Punjab Province. Her husband rented a small farm where he grew cotton, earning enough to support the family’s simple life.

“We had a mud house, a livelihood and a content life,” said Asho. She explained that life was difficult, but no more difficult than village communities in rural Pakistan are used to.

However, in August 2013, heavy monsoon rains triggered flooding across Punjab. Torrents of water ran down the steep Punjabi hillsides, washing away homes and farms. “Our small house with our belongings was swept away,” said Asho. “My husband lost his cotton crop and we had to move away to a safer place.”

A tent and thankless labour

Almost 800,000 people in Punjab were affected by the floods. Asho and her family received a tent from the Italian NGO CESVI, and she and her husband took work as unskilled labourers. But the income was small and not enough to support the whole family.

The tent, though appreciated, was also a concern. It was not big enough to house a large family of nine, and it provided poor protection against the severe Punjabi sun and rain. Asho’s teenage daughters complained of a lack of privacy. So, with her meagre income, Asho saved and hoped to build a house one day.

Sense of safety

One day, Asho heard from neighbours that CESVI was planning to provide small, one-room homes for some of the poorest families affected by the floods. The project was being financed by the OCHA-managed Emergency Response Fund (ERF). The ERF provides rapid and flexible funding following a disaster, or when funding from other sources is not forthcoming.

Asho’s family was soon identified by the CESVI team. They received materials for a semi-permanent one-room shelter, as well as training in construction and additional skilled labour to help them build the small house.

Asho and her family were excited when they finally moved in. “The raised plinths will be very beneficial for us if floods surround us again,” she said. “We will be able to survive [and] our food and living material will also be safe. This new shelter has given us a sense of safety in our minds.”

Asho now plans to build a boundary wall around the house. Most importantly, having this new home means she can use her savings for her family’s needs, including education and health.

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