Engaging volunteers to build a better tomorrow

1.4Every year, Habitat for Humanity International launches a multi-month campaign with the aim to encourage youth to take lead and motivate them into action to build homes and communities, on Habitat build sites or online through social networks. Habitat Young Leaders Build (HabitatYLB) is one of the largest youth movements in the Asia Pacific region and it is a chance for the young people to get together to volunteer, fundraise, raise awareness, and voice out their support for the need for decent and affordable housing.

The HabitatYLB campaign focuses on motivating the youth into action and joining the cause of advocating for the need for decent and affordable shelter. The campaign this year began on 5 December, 2017 on World Volunteer Day and it will continue until culmination on 21 April, 2018. The goal of this campaign is to get as many of the youth possible to support Habitat’s cause and speak up about the need for decent, affordable housing. To motivate the youth to participate in advocating for housing, Habitat for Humanity International introduced the advocacy grants in the 2016 HYLB campaign. Since then the application for advocacy grants opens every year during the HabitatYLB season, where applicants are encouraged to submit projects focused on decent housing, slum upgrading, gender and property rights, disaster resilience, or security of tenure. Grants of US$500 to US$1,000 each will be awarded for creativity, innovation and inclusiveness to effect change. There have been close to a dozen applications for the grants this season from Bangladesh.

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The HabitatYLB campaigns focus on various aspects of Habitat’s work, and while the main events are usually centred on new house constructions, other activities such as fundraising, advocacy, social media activities are also highly encouraged. We do not want to limit the youth’s creativity and neither do we want them to be left out of this opportunity. The youth can engage themselves by speaking about the need for housing, using their creativity to inform more people about the prevalence of homelessness and how we can ensure an end to such vices by empowering people in need.

This year, Habitat Bangladesh hosted a series build at Kaliganj, Gazipur engaging volunteers from various schools and organizations in the HabitatYLB campaign on houses donated by the Abinta Kabir Foundation. Volunteer teams visited the build sites in Brahmongaon village in Kaliganj on different days over the weeks starting from 25 January to 17 February, 2018. There were a number of schools and organizations that volunteered for the very first time with Habitat Bangladesh, and it was an exciting experience for both the parties. We had a total of 158 volunteers who participated in new house constructions over three weeks. We had individual volunteers, and volunteers from International School Dhaka (ISD), Playpen School, Delhi Public School (DPS), Sir John Wilson School, GraphicPeople, and Pathao.

Habitat Bangladesh will promote the work of our volunteers with those of others in the region and showcase the efforts put in by the community in Bangladesh to help out. HabitatYLB culminates on 26 April, 2016 when all Habitat affiliates in the Asia Pacific region host special events to commemorate the efforts of the volunteers over the months.COMBINED PHOTO2

 

 

The fifth Urban Dialogue 2017

DSC 3820The United Nations predicts that by 2050 about 64% of the developing world and 86% of the developed world will be urbanized. Bangladesh, predominantly a rural country, is in the process of going through rapid urbanization. However, this fast-paced growth in urban population is vastly unplanned and extremely imbalanced. According to website worldometers, 35.7% of the population lives in the urban areas. According to a study conducted by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) in 2015, about 2.23 million people live in slums across the country. The rapid, unplanned urbanization is considered to be one of the major reasons for the high levels of urban poverty, where around 40% live in low-income communities. It has also caused a spike in the vulnerability of the country and its people to natural disasters and climate change. The major vulnerabilities include Urban disasters, infrastructure vulnerabilities, lack of housing facilities, severe crisis for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) especially for low income communities (LICs), urban flooding, exposed to waterlogging, health hazards due to unplanned and inappropriate waste management, lack of child protection and lack of good governance among many others. Over the past years, many local and international organizations have taken up the agenda of improving conditions for the urban poor, but a lack of coordination among the stakeholders results in major gaps in policy implementation and reduces the effectiveness of the programs.

DSC 4754The Urban INGO Forum Bangladesh was established in 2013 through the initiatives of Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh, with the support of Islamic Relief and World Vision Bangladesh. It is a consortium of 14 INGOs working on different issues in urban areas in Bangladesh. The initial objective of the forum was to ensure collective effort through better coordination, smooth communication between organizations working towards similar end goals, and networking among the urban stakeholders. The Urban INGO Forum Bangladesh became active with the INGOs working in urban areas with the aim of supporting low-income communities in an effective and broader way where organizing Urban Dialogue would be one of the initiatives among them.

This year the forum organized the 5th Urban Dialogue on November 01-02, 2017 on “Inclusive and Resilient Cities”. A total of 24 organizations partnered and 14 organizations funded for the urban dialogue where more than 750 people participated. The dialogue focused on to allow participants to highlight the unaddressed urban issues and to create an opportunity to collaborate with stakeholders at different tiers to complement government initiatives. Urban issues were addressed at the policy level, and evidence-based solutions were used in formulating development policies for sustainable urban services. The 5th Urban Dialogue was conducted through five parallel sessions over the two days.   The following demands came from the parallel sessions during the 5th Urban Dialogue 2017:

Session-1: Urban Development Policy Framework: Reflection from the Lens of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Climate Change Adaptation (CCA)

  • DSC 4011The government will integrate DRR and CCA in urban sector plan ensuring people, public and private partnership, the establishment of a decentralized fire safety system, promote the culture of volunteerism and also ensure inclusive policies and enforcement of existing laws.

Session-2: Sustainable Water and Waste Management System for a Healthy and Resilient City

  • The government will take appropriate measures to ensure safe water supply (aligned with SDG 6*) for low-income communities at an affordable cost in partnership with the private sector, NGOs, and the civil society. All urban reform efforts should be built around accelerating water connections to poorer households and communities - including subsidizing household connections and removing the requirement of land tenure as a condition for service provision. The government will also finalize and approve the draft Waste Management Rules (2010)/ Reduce, Reuse and Recycle (3R) Strategy and take necessary steps to implement it.

Session-3: Resilient Settlement for Green Cities: Our Way Forward

  • The government will take appropriate measures to promote and adopt alternative and green construction materials in housing and infrastructure, through ensuring affordable housing for slum-dwellers and urban poor.

DSC 4704Session-4: Basic Rights and Services for Urban Poor

  • The government will ensure basic services for the urban poor including primary health care for the slum, squatter and pavement dwellers through inter-ministerial coordination, and bring them under social safety net coverage through urban specific policies and programs. The government will recognize urban extreme poor as equal citizens of the country through the unhindered provision of National Identification Cards and Birth Certificates.

Session-5: Cities for All: Make Cities Safe and Resilient for Women, Youth, and Children

  • City authorities will have pilot initiatives youth in planning, execution and monitoring social accountability of key stakeholders.
  • Ministry of Local Government, rural development and cooperatives will institutionalize youth engagement in governance at the local level (City Corporation, municipalities, Wards).
  • The Government will acknowledge youth, women, and children as driving force and implement relevant policies to ensure their participation in planning and protection issues for resilient cities.

The Urban Dialogues ended with a Plenary Session, through an interactive discussion among the government body, donors, private sector, civil society organizations, multi-level stakeholders and audiences about issues on urban crisis, gaps and future initiatives hosted by Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC). In the plenary session, the core points of all the sessions conducted over the two-day event are summarized, and the future action points are drafted through discussion. These action points, known as the declaration, are going to be published as a roadmap for the Urban INGO forum. The 6th Urban Dialogue will follow-up and measure the successes and shortcomings based on these declaration points.

Following are the issues identified from two days long urban dialogue:

  1. DSC 4727We recognize and find the importance of urban context and the urbanization process for development of Bangladesh. At existing growth rates of 2.8%, the country’s urban population will reach 79 million or 42% of the population by 2035.  Today’s rural issues will become tomorrow’s urban problems, thus the time to act is now.
  2. 28% of the population is living in urban areas which will become 50% in three decades. Rapid urbanization has increased unplanned population growth and settlement, migration, and pressure on administrative boundaries. This trend towards urbanization cannot be halted as the economy evolves from a low to a middle-income country. We also recognize that climate-induced disasters and associated risks will only accelerate the trend of rapid urbanization and increased rate of migration.
  3. Higher population density and poorly planned cities in Bangladesh creates negative externalities. Urban expansion taking place in slums exacerbate socio-economic disparities. In absence of pro-poor urban governance, protecting rights and dignity of poor urban dwellers is not possible. Over-centralization and inadequate popular participation have been identified as the main causal factors.
  4. People, poverty and disaster risks are increasingly concentrated in the cities. The vulnerable groups, children, women, youth and the aged encounter severe problems in their daily lives in terms of having basic services, safety, and security, protection and livelihood. In Bangladesh, gaps in institutionalization and capacity of disaster management committees and volunteers at all levels were also identified as one of the challenges for managing urban risks at the city level.
  5. Hazardous and labor intensive job affects the health condition of the poor community; therefore, the urban poor find themselves in a difficult situation to escape poverty.
  6. Housing crisis for the migrated people is recognized as one of the major concerns for the urban citizens. Also, it is important to switch towards eco-friendly building materials to ensure support for a green city movement.
  7. Double diseases burden, fragmented health system and unclear role of different ministries, departments and stakeholders is causing unaffordable and inequitable access to health service by an urban low-income population which has a significant impact on urban poverty.
  8. Housing crisis for the migrated people is also recognized as one of the major concerns for the urban citizens.
  9. Unskilled labor, limited employment opportunities, degraded environment, poor housing, road safety and hazards for the urban communities, lack of access to safe water and sanitation services, causes poverty in urban areas. Gaps in including urban nutrition in National Social Security Strategy paper and link up with other urban social safety net programs also considered as one of the major problems for the city. DSC 4862
  10. Private-public partnership is not widely addressed in case of urban development
  11. We recognize that the City Wide Approach through inter-agency coordination and collaboration both in government and non-government agencies in order to ensure effective utilization of shared resources is a gap for comprehensive, inclusive and future urban development.

The two day long 5th Urban Dialogue came to a conclusion with Fred Witteven, National Director of World Vision Bangladesh, Summarizing the last two days session. Zia Choudhury, Country Director of CARE Bangladesh read out declaration points. The session was closed with concluding remarks and vote of thanks to Dr. Maksud Kamal, Chairperson, Dept. of Disaster Science and Management, University of Dhaka. The event was a huge success and culminated in a number of fruitful ideas and way forward in building more inclusive and resilient cities. The Urban INGO Forum Bangladesh will continue aligning their work to the declarations and try to achieve desired results. 

Roundtable discussion on urban DRR; climate change impact on urban life and way forward.

DSC 5882Urban population has been growing nearly 6% on average every year since the independence. At a time when national population growth was 2.2%, around 40 million people in Bangladesh lived in the urban areas, and out of them, 14% lived below the poverty line. Eighteen percent of our country’s land mass is at risk of going below sea level due to climate change effect which will force people residing in vulnerable regions to migrate to urban areas.

The country’s vulnerability intensifies with increased urbanization. The major vulnerabilities include urban disasters, infrastructure vulnerabilities, the severe crisis of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) especially for low-income communities, urban flooding, waterlogging, child labor, lack of good governance, etc. Although many of the national and international organizations are working in order to address these needs, there is always a demand for support to the low-income urban communities, to ensure their access to basic amenities and prepare them to be resilient to hazards.

In Dhaka, more than 44,000 people are concentrated per square kilometer and the city’s population increases around 1,400 people per day. The migrants can barely find a decent life in Dhaka city. They end up living in slums, stricken by extreme poverty and living a substandard life. The slum dwellers are the most vulnerable to climate change induced disasters in the new environment.

On November 21, 2017, a Round Table Discussion was organized by Habitat Bangladesh at the Daily Star Bhaban, to outline the urban disaster response issues relating to the impact of Climate Change on Urban life and way forward. Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh, a branch of HFH International, was established in 1999.  It currently operates in 6 locations across the country, aiming to break the cycle of poverty that comes with poorly-constructed homes. To date, around 12,000 low-income Bangladeshi families have partnered with Habitat to improve their housing, water and sanitation, and living conditions. This represents around 300,000 people who have also received training in safe water and sanitation, appropriate construction technology, disaster response microfinance, and mitigation. Habitat’s ongoing 3-year project Empowering Vulnerable in four urban slums by building resilience to every day and disaster risk”, began in December 2016. The activities are targeted towards a total of 26,070 people or 5,250 households in the Lalmath and Bauniabadh slums in Dhaka and in the Labanchara and Masghat slums in Khulna. The project aims to lead to more disaster aware slum inhabitants, help in establishing a resilient infrastructure, assist in diversifying the livelihoods of the dwellers and lead a dialogue with the relevant governmental stakeholders in order to reach sustainable solutions to the problems the urban poor encounter.The roundtable discussion was attended by a professor of Department of Geography and Environment, University of Dhaka; keynote speaker from Department of Urban and Regional Planning, BUET; representatives of various national and international organizations, community volunteers, representatives of Dhaka City Corporation, and management and program related representatives from Habitat Bangladesh.

DSC 6022In her keynote presentation at the roundtable, Dr. Ishrat Islam, Head of the Department of Urban Regional Planning, BUET said, “If we think about the urban disaster and disaster resilience we cannot leave behind the one-third population living in the urban slums”. She also explained the scenario of urban disaster and impact of climate change on urban life focusing on the low-income communities in the city. She mentioned that in the next 20 years, 40% of the people of Bangladesh will be living in urban areas. The nature of urbanization in Bangladesh is such that it is strongly centered on Dhaka City. In terms of disaster, RAJUK urban resilient unit is a good example of how to handle disasters, but it is more important to have the community participate more. There are lots of training for Ward Disaster Management Committee (WDMC) and volunteers, but it needs to be made more effective. In case of any disasters, the sufferers are largely the poor people who are rarely responsible for climate change. Climate migrants are largest in number in Dhaka City, and land planning is very important for to ensure efficient land use and finances. There is a large number of policy documents which mostly do not relate to the root level. If policies were drafted and implemented in the context of the root level then it would have been more difficult to implement the coal power electric project in Rampal. Even though we have the ICT Act, gathering data is a big challenge in the context of Bangladesh, which often leads to poor implementation of even good plans, like in the case f building construction code, 1996. Risks need to be identified before making any plans, and the community-based disaster management committees should be at the center of such risk reduction activities.

“We have to accommodate the migrated people living in the slums. We have to own them and provide them with a better life. We have to empower the city, increase safety and ensure good governance so that everyone is benefitted” said Mr. Nurul Islam Nazem, Professor, Department of Geography and Environment, University of Dhaka. Climate migrants are more vulnerable in terms of house, education, income, and sanitation. A safe city is an empowered city. Good governance needs to be there. The city should be inclusive and decentralization is also crucial. We have all kinds of policies, but the policy is not ultimate. There needs to be proper strategic planning to ensure those policies can be implemented in the right way. The public and private partnership is essential to work on disaster.

Abdul Latif Helaly, Project Director, Urban Resilience Project, Rajuk, discussed the recent projects that the government is implementing and planning for better prospects of urban life, disaster management, and climate change issues. Geologically Bangladesh is vulnerable to various kinds of disasters. Earthquakes cannot be prevented but their economic loss and casualties can be minimized. In terms of disaster preparedness, Bangladesh has been able to achieve great reductions in casualties from 10 lakh deaths in the 1970 cyclone down to 3500 deaths in 2007. Disaster preparedness is an essential area in reducing the number of casualties, as in Cuba the number of affected people reduced due to preparedness.

DSC 5864RAJUK in collaboration with the World Bank has taken on technical urban earthquake resilience project I &II. The project is divided among four institutions RAJUK, DNCC, DDM, and the Coordination and monitoring planning commission. RAJUK has total 6 components under this project,

  • Vulnerability assessment of vulnerable infrastructure e.g. educational institution, hospital and airport in case of a magnitude 7 and above earthquake.
  • Risk-sensitive land use planning: earthquake hazard from soil pulling method amplification and liquefaction hazard, DAP does not have such methods.
  • Urban resilience unit
  • The database used for construction activities and plan approved electronically.  
  • Professional training program for related people who will be involved in building work and database management.
  • Bangladesh National Building Code (BNBC) will be implemented and a testing laboratory will be established.

The roundtable session brought out the role of stakeholders in supporting and facilitating more sustainable and inclusive support to the low-income communities. Everyone emphasized the significance of comprehensive disaster response initiatives in the urban areas. The roundtable discussion culminated in the following recommendations to improve urban resilience to climate change:

  • Ensuring that the spatial dimension of the plan is integrated with the sectoral planning and investment.
  • Having a comprehensive understanding of climate change impact from geographical, social-economic and environmental perspectives.
  • Risk-sensitive land use planning.
  • Ensuring implementation of plan and building by-laws and codes.
  • Focusing on issues of migration and developing skilled man-power in coastal areas.
  • Informal employment should have a focus on national plan and policies.
  • Immediate action plan at the local level with long-term vision and plan.
  • Improvement of planning practice at the local level with adequate authority and accountability.
  • Integrated and shared database for all agencies.
  • Introducing financial tools and instruments for risk-sharing and risk-transfer are important but it is a challenging task.
  • A comprehensive disaster risk reduction measure requires diverse and expanded forms of partnerships, such as networks among agencies, educational institutions, stakeholders and citizen groups.
  • Social and environmental benefits of development need to be equally prioritized as economic benefits.
  • There needs to be a greater political will in achieving these goals. 

A dream builds home and hope

AKF2It takes a lot of effort to fulfill one's dreams, but it takes an even greater deal to help make someone else’s dreams a reality. Through assistance from various partners and donors, Habitat Bangladesh has been empowering people through shelter since 1999. On Friday, 17 November 2017 over a hundred volunteers gathered with representatives of Abinta Kabir Foundation, to help Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh to build 8 new houses for some of the poorest families in Brahmongaon Village in Kaliganj, Gazipur. With a donation from the Abinta Kabir Foundation, Habitat Bangladesh has set out to build 12 houses, complete with a latrine and tube-well.

A home is an essential part of living a dignified life. Habitat for Humanity understands that everyone should have access to a safe and stable shelter. Habitat Bangladesh has seen many such stories unfold. Stories of young widows with no proper roof over their heads, stories of families struggling to make ends meet, families that need to make a trade-off between choosing to fix a leaky roof and sending their children to school, stories of aged mothers with no one to look after them. While all the stories may be different, Habitat for Humanity works endlessly to ensure stable and sustainable shelter for such individuals, making sure they no longer have to worry about the roof over their heads rather they focus their incomes and their efforts on building a better future for themselves and their families. Habitat for Humanity does not simply build homes but brings with it the hope of a better tomorrow.

AKF10Habitat Bangladesh has been partnering with many national and international organizations in its efforts to fulfill its vision of creating a world where everyone has a decent place to live. Habitat Bangladesh for the first time partnered with the Abinta Kabir Foundation, who have generously donated for 12 habitat homes in the Brahmongaon Village. The Abinta Kabir Foundation, keeping with Abinta’s zeal for volunteerism and her willingness to help the needy, donated for this project with Habitat Bangladesh. With this funding, Habitat Bangladesh organized a large build event on Friday, November 17, 2017. The event took place on the grounds of the local primary school, where the volunteers gathered for a short inauguration ceremony. John Armstrong, country director of Habitat Bangladesh, and Ms. Ruba Ahmed, founder of the Abinta Kabir Foundation and mother of Abinta, expressed their gratitude for having the volunteers come and work alongside the organizations in helping build the homes. Ms. Ruba in an emotional speech, remembered her daughter and her exceptional character. John Armstrong, National Director of Habitat for Humanity in Bangladesh urged the youth to use their time and effort to contribute in building a better society. Ms. Marcia Bernicat, the honorable US ambassador to Bangladesh, was among the volunteers working enthusiastically with her group and filling the floor with cement. The ambassador said that she believed our Creator has given us everything we need to make our world a heaven, but we need to work together to ensure that we can make that happen.

AKF23The volunteers showed great enthusiasm and motivation in their efforts, working tirelessly to complete the work before they could call it a day. Abinta herself had been a part of multiple volunteer build events with Habitat Bangladesh, while a student at the American International School Dhaka. Keeping with her zeal for volunteerism and her love for helping others, the foundation chose to donate money that would help realize the dreams of 12 families in dire need. The volunteers spent time working on the eight sites and getting to know the families personally. They worked alongside the home-owners, showing solidarity and making them feel loved and cared for. The home-partners were overwhelmed to see the volunteers put in such hard work into building their dream houses. The youth volunteers brought great energy and enthusiasm into the event. Their participation allowed the work to be completed beautifully while allowing the beneficiaries to feel a sense of camaraderie. The volunteers’ combined efforts, beginning with their assistance in organizing to finally building and handing over the houses, built hope for the families and for the community. 

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