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close this bookRehabilitation and Reconstruction - 1st Edition (Department of Humanitarian Affairs/United Nations Disaster Relief Office - Disaster Management Training Programme - United Nations Development Programme , 1993, 47 p.)
close this folderPart 2 - Relationship to other stages of disaster management
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentMitigation into reconstruction
View the documentReconstruction and development
View the documentReconstruction and preparedness plans
View the documentEmergency relief into rehabilitation
View the documentSummary



After reading this part of the module you will be able to describe:

the basic mitigation measures to be used in preparedness and recovery planning

other common elements of preparedness plans

the use of emergency relief in rehabilitation planning

Although rehabilitation and reconstruction are distinctive activities, they should not be seen in isolation from other pre- and post-disaster actions. Reconstruction after a disaster provides many mitigation and development opportunities that may not be possible in ‘normal’ conditions. If properly utilized, these opportunities can, in return, improve the effectiveness of recovery from possible future disasters. Similarly, integration of rehabilitation planning into local and national preparedness plans contributes to better recovery.

Mitigation into reconstruction

Ideally, reconstruction should aim to build to a better standard than existed before. Any actions to improve the pre-disaster conditions can help to reduce disaster risk and mitigate the damage of future events. There are several structural and non-structural mitigation measures that are discussed in the module Disaster Mitigation. Those that are likely to be implemented or improved in reconstruction are explained below.

Construction codes to protect buildings and infrastructure are almost always introduced after major disasters. While post-disaster reconstruction may be a good period in which to establish codes, problems may arise in relation to their enforcement and the time taken to develop them. Full investigation of structural damage (and in the case of earthquakes, micro-zonation studies), can take a very long time and slow down reconstruction. Many people start rebuilding and repairing within weeks of the event. An interim emergency code and standard for repair can speed up the process and protect reconstruction and repair of damaged buildings until codes are revised for future construction. However, in some situations emergency codes may in the long-term become the norm. Supervision and enforcement of codes in the long run can also be difficult In most developing countries the system can easily be corrupted due to the loopholes in the legislation, lack of trained inspectors, the extra cost involved in protective measures and decline in public awareness of risk as the disaster fades from memory. Rural areas and unauthorized buildings such as squatter settlements often escape code enforcement since they may not come under the control of any jurisdiction. Codes alone will be of little use to ensure higher standards, unless they are supported by increased public awareness for self-control, incentives to implement them and the economic means to pay for improvements. Mitigation planning should therefore recognize this fact and develop measures that are affordable and achievable by the groups who have the least knowledge and the means.

Land-use changes and zoning are easier to introduce where levels of damage are high. Reduction of densities and change of use during reconstruction in high risk areas can contribute to mitigation. In densely populated urban areas, clearance of damaged buildings for more open areas and parks, though expensive, can not only reduce future risks but provide areas for evacuation and erection of emergency shelters in a future disaster. Examples of such mitigation measures are; the building of schools on highest grounds as evacuation centers during floods in Anhui Province of China in 1991, increasing park areas in Skopje after the 1963 earthquake in the most dangerous part of the city subject to river flooding and maximum seismic ground movement due to alluvial soil.

The replanning of Lisbon after the 1755 earthquake and Skopje in 1963 represent examples of major reconstruction efforts that incorporated many urban design principles for mitigation, including wide streets and increased open space. Obviously such grand changes are not always possible or successful. Lack of political will, pressure groups with interest in land and public resistance to change can counteract these measures. Where damage is limited, pre-disaster land use plans will be more difficult to alter, even though the future risk may be high. Property owners will fear that the value of their land or buildings will be reduced and that business will no longer be profitable. Authorities will also be more reluctant to divert resources into major alterations.

Groups who live on marginalized land will benefit very little from any of the above measures even when they are implemented. As these groups lead their lives in very vulnerable conditions they are at highest risk from disasters and the least able to benefit from any mitigation measures that might be introduced after an event. Sometimes disasters can provide opportunities that should be utilized to the benefit of these groups.

Land reforms, tenure or title-deeds for land and property, grants and credit schemes may become possible in the post-disaster situation. Disaster mitigation for the marginalized, therefore, should be addressed in a political, economic and social context, otherwise such groups who do not have a voice themselves may be left out of any provisions.

Disaster mitigation for the marginalized, therefore, should be addressed in a political, economic and social context, otherwise such groups who can not voice themselves may be left out of any provisions.

For example, following the earthquake in Mexico City, local authorities provided low interest loans and technical and legal assistance to the low income groups living in the damaged historical part of the city. Families who were tenants before the earthquake were able to organize themselves into groups and purchased the buildings at favorable rates from the owners. The following reconstruction and social upgrading Programme not only provided these families with safer housing but also with more economic and social security.

Decentralization of facilities such as administration, health, industry, infrastructure and communications is more likely to be implemented during reconstruction after a major disaster. While this measure safeguards survival of some parts of any system if facilities are concentrated in a high risk area, the management practicality and cost of dispersed services have to be carefully balanced with their level of risk. Maintaining a diversity of locations in agriculture and food crops can also minimize the damage to rural economies. This has been put into practice at the local level in Fiji where farmers work land in more than one location.

Diversification of economy during reconstruction of damaged industry and rehabilitation of agriculture can significantly mitigate losses and speed up recovery in future disasters. Reliance on one type of economy such as tourism, manufacturing, fishing or agriculture can create significant problems without alternatives to fall back on. Political will, public acceptance and international assistance will be more readily available to achieve diversification during reconstruction than pre-disaster conditions. Introduction of new seed types and plantation patterns can increase crop resistance and improve yields. In certain instances this may also help to alter plantation and harvest time to avoid damage from seasonal disaster, such as floods and hurricanes. Where applicable, activities such as stock breeding, poultry and beehive keeping, crafts etc., can provide an extra income if agriculture fails and cannot be restored rapidly. In this context rehabilitation has to be seen within a developmental framework.

Reconstruction and development

Post-disaster reconstruction can influence development programs both positively and negatively. Similarly, the pre-disaster level of development in a country will have a bearing upon the success of recovery and reconstruction (see Disasters and Development). Past examples prove that in areas of low pre-disaster development, recovery will be slow or, sometimes, can never be achieved. Delays in reconstruction will also decrease public and private investments, divert resources away from development activities to sustaining rehabilitation over an extended period of rime. Productive capital takes a particularly long rime to replace in the case of agriculture and stock breeding, which may result in migration from the disaster stricken area. Reduced industrial output, on the other hand, can lead to wage losses, unemployment and disruption of dependent economic activities. While loans and subsidies can act as emergency economic measures, reconstruction programs need to be planned with close consideration of the likely developmental status of the affected area. Since disasters often hit the least developed areas and the most disadvantaged groups hardest, rehabilitation and reconstruction programs should also aim to change the vulnerable conditions for the high risk population through development programs. These conditions can be much more deep rooted than they seem on the surface when revealed by disaster, such as lack of access to information, limited economic means to maintain safety, environmental degradation, lack of social networks or limited political power. A wide range of examples of developmental inputs in post-disaster programs to address some of the root causes of vulnerability are in the Disasters and Development module.

Rehabilitation and reconstruction programs should also aim to change the vulnerable conditions for the high risk population through development programs.

Q. What are some of the structural and non-structural mitigation measures that are likely to be implemented or improved in reconstruction?

A. __________________________________________________________



(Some of the structural and non-structural mitigation measures listed in this text that are likely to be implemented or improved during reconstruction are: construction codes, land-use changes and zoning, decentralization of key facilities, and diversification of the economy. Are there others equally important in your own community?)

Reconstruction and preparedness plans

Conventional preparedness plans often include stockpiling of food, shelter, medicine, tools etc. for emergency and rehabilitation needs. Increasingly, however, the advantages of incorporating reconstruction needs into preparedness plans is becoming obvious. This has several implications that can improve the speed and effectiveness of rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts. These plans can include:

Assessment of hazard, risks and vulnerability, including both physical and human, identification of possible future problems and anticipation of the location, scale and nature of rehabilitation and reconstruction needs.

Improved standards and planning of data collection at the local level and dissemination of damage survey and needs assessment.

Plans for evacuation and sheltering of affected people and accommodating health, educational and administrative facilities until reconstruction is completed.

Resource inventories to meet rehabilitation and reconstruction needs, including community capacities and resources.

Training and education to improve human resources, especially at the local level for rehabilitation and a registry of specialized personnel to be deployed, e.g. in health, psychological support, shelter, water, sanitation etc.

Allocation of responsibilities for rehabilitation and reconstruction at all levels, definition of roles and responsibilities of the local and national organizations.

Legislation for co-ordination of sectors, NGOs and international assistance during rehabilitation and reconstruction; a clear structure for decision making.

Legislation and decrees to expropriate land, change land use, generate and channel funds for reconstruction; codes, standards and procedures for repair, urban plans.

Social and economic surveys to identify the community profile, living standards, repayment capacity, expected levels of local coping.

Procedures and methods for the identification of beneficiaries.

Strengthening of channels for local participation and self-reliance such as agricultural and housing co-operatives which may become useful institutions to operate through rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Q. Are there other critical elements for a preparedness and or reconstruction program for your own community or country which are not listed here?

A. __________________________________________________________


Emergency relief into rehabilitation

Although emergency relief is a distinctive stage of post-disaster activities, many of the actions and decisions of this period can influence later stages.

Extended external relief assistance can undermine local and national coping capacity and create dependency. For example, food aid following a typhoon in Fiji might meet short term food needs, but if the traditional coping mechanisms are underestimated and under used the communities ability to feed itself may be damaged. Any relief assistance, therefore, should balance relieving of immediate pressure on the communities with support for local coping for rapid recovery.

Large scale damaging events, often with pressures from the media, result in large amounts of international relief which leaves limited resources for the long-term recovery and rehabilitation. Continuity of support by agencies and donor governments beyond relief needs to be considered at early stages of allocating funds and other resources in a more balanced way. Articulation of rehabilitation and reconstruction needs into relief appeals and ways of integrating relief and long-term assistance also need to be explored.

While assessment of damage, needs and resources need to be specific and prioritized for the task at hand, i.e. relief, often rehabilitation and reconstruction decisions are based on these early data. This is partly due to the cost and time it takes to collect data and to meet the public demand to act rapidly. Ideally, it is necessary to monitor the changing needs as the situation develops. However, this may not be the case after most disasters. This common pattern needs to be recognized. Therefore, the drawbacks of early disaster assessment and the need to maximize the initial data collection must be taken into account in the planning of rehabilitation and reconstruction.

It is necessary to monitor the changing needs as the situation develops.

During the early stages of disaster response it is important to plan the co-ordination of data collection, multi-disciplinary assessment teams, and data generation for later phases. This will improve the quality and effectiveness of early information for rapid rehabilitation and reconstruction decisions. However, it should be remembered that as conditions change, decisions need to be modified in light of updated information. For example, after a major earthquake the number of homeless is often calculated in relation to damaged or destroyed buildings. However, due to the fear of after shocks, the public may refuse to go back to their surviving homes, which will increase the need for shelter provision beyond the initial assessment.

While it is important to recognize patterns from early diagnostic indicators for rapid response, decisions to effect long-term actions should not be taken in the haste of relief operations. Decisions such as relocation or provision of temporary shelters require careful examination of their long-term implications and consultation with the communities. There are many examples of temporary shelter provision as a response to an early identified need which eventually became permanent at great cost and often in wrong locations. Similarly, medical programs or food distribution should not be prolonged without monitoring of the changes at the local level.


Reconstruction should not be seen as an isolated activity. It is a unique opportunity to carry out other mitigation programs. Some of these are:

- implementation of construction codes
- land-use changes and zoning
- decentralization of critical facilities
- diversification of the economy

Reconstruction also has a direct link to development. Post-disaster planning must be carefully executed to avoid damaging development potential.

Reconstruction needs should be incorporated into preparedness plans for more efficient implementation of post-disaster programs. These preparedness plans should contain:

- assessment of vulnerability and risk
- improved standards of data collection
- evacuation and shelter plans
- resource inventories
- training components
- allocation of rehabilitation and reconstruction responsibilities
- supporting legislation
- social and economic surveys
- local participation