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Planning for post-disaster housing provision

A PhD student’s first hand experience of the aftermath of the Boxing Day Tsunami has inspired his research into the provision of emergency housing following natural disasters.

Ruhizal Roosli will set off on a 3 month trip to his native Malaysia tomorrow to visit towns and cities in the area including Aceh, Penang, Nias, Indonesia, and Pucket, Thailand – one of the areas worst hit by the Tsunami in 2004.

Ruhizal, 29, has a background in planning and construction, and worked for a number of government bodies and private sector organisations across Malaysia, before taking a career break to study for a PhD in Housing and Policy at Northumbria, supported by the Science University of Malaysia under its Academic Staff Training Scheme.

He was based in Malaysia in December 2004 when the Tsunami struck, and was one of the first volunteers on the scene. It was his experiences during this time which inspired him to pursue the in depth study of emergency housing in a disaster situation. He says:

“I was working as a volunteer for an NGO in Malaysia at the time of the Tsunami, and we headed straight down to the worst hit areas at Kuala Muda, Kedah and Teluk Bahang, Penang, to offer help and support. Whilst working with the people responsible for emergency planning, I realised there was much scope for improvement, both in the plans, and in the training of those in the front line and amongst the victims.”

Although logistically things ran fairly smoothly, Ruhizal identified a real need for additional training for disaster support workers, to help them provide re-assurance and inspire confidence.

Ruhizal will visit government bodies including the UN in Phuket, attend seminars and conferences on disaster management, and talk to those who have received emergency shelter provision after a disaster. He will also speak to disaster workers, focusing on attitudes to regulation and compliance with procedures in a disaster situation.

Ruhizal says: “Often the pressures of time and people’s needs counteract the demands for sustainability and quality. By looking in-depth at the provision of emergency shelter, temporary shelter, temporary housing and permanent housing, I hope to highlight shortfalls in provision, training or awareness, and to recommend ways to improve provision and communication in a disaster situation.”

His research work will be financially supported by a ProVention Research and Action Grant. The grants are designed to engage enthusiastic young students and professionals in developing countries to creating innovative links between research and action in disaster risk reduction. Selected teams are invited to seek ways to cut across professional disciplines and to exchange knowledge and engage stakeholders from scientific and academic, civilian, public and private sectors.

Ruhizal is the second academic from Northumbria’s Disaster and Development Centre to be awarded Pro Vention Grant funding in recent years. In 2004, Komal Aryal was awarded financial support for his research into Community Disaster Management with Geographical Information Systems (GIS).

Nicola Nicholls | alfa
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