During October and November 2020, central Viet Nam was impacted by a series of successive intense storms, cyclones, and record-level floods. More than 230 people were reported dead or missing, and at least 380,000 houses were reported as flooded, damaged, or destroyed. In the aftermath, tens of thousands of the most vulnerable were left with nothing but damaged homes, shattered livelihoods, and ruined crops. Lacking the means to invest in house repairs, reconstruction, or even basic necessities, many of the poor and near-poor were pushed to the tipping point.
Tran Thi Hao can only knit three pieces per month, and she receives a total of just 1.5 million dong (~US$65) for her work. Even if she limits her spending, it is still barely enough to afford two daily meals for herself and her grandchild. Her house, already run-down, was barely able to withstand the rainy season.
"Our life is very hard. We use the money from knitting to buy rice, but there still isn’t enough food. My house was damaged – the wind beat down the front doors, and the floodwaters carried our furniture away," she shared.
Thanks to the UNDP project "Responding to Natural Disasters in Viet Nam," she was able to return to her house in November with cash support to make repairs after the historically high floodwaters had receded.
"Some people were given a household kit with basic necessities, but I received 4.6 million dong to install new doors. I’m delighted, because now we have working doors to block out the wind!" she said happily.
Mai Van Huy of Quang Van commune, Ba Don town, also received support to repair his family home. There are five adults and one child in his family, and three of the adults were born blind. It is not always easy for their family to find ways to afford to live. The roof that sheltered them was blown off by the record-level storms and winds in 2020, and in order to find the time to repair it, the family had to stop working for almost a month, losing their primary source of income.
"Our house is more than 32 years old, and it’s been rotten for a long time. It used to leak when it rained, and we had to use a canvas to cover it. When the storms came last November, we lost two thirds of our roof. Thankfully, with financial support and some old tiles, we were able to repair it after. Our neighbors also came to help us. With a well-tiled roof, we no longer have to worry about the rain," Huy said.
With the support of the project, over 26,000 poor and near-poor people affected by storms and floods in Central Viet Nam have been supported for stabilization. 3,323 poor and near-poor households received help to repair and reinforce storm-resilient features in their damaged houses, with help from well-trained local masons, Red Cross volunteers, and UNDP engineers to ensure that the processes were undertaken correctly. At the same time, another 3,323 households in Quang Binh, Quang Tri, Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, and Thua Thien Hue provinces received gender-responsive household kits packed with everyday essentials.
"In the longer term, it's crucial to not only repair houses but to construct new houses that are fully storm-resilient from the outset. When typhoons and floods strike, storm-resilient houses are vital as they protect people, their property, and their assets. This is especially critical for poor and near poor people, who rely on their property and assets to build back their lives and livelihoods faster. For this reason, storm-resilient houses should be an essential component of any poverty reduction program," highlighted Caitlin Wiesen, UNDP Resident Representative in Viet Nam.
"I highly appreciate UNDP's coordination, which goes directly to the essential needs of the people in disaster-affected areas. This assistance not only solves immediate post-disaster recovery but is also sustainable for local people living in frequent disaster areas," said Tran Quang Hoai, Deputy Head of the Central Steering Committee on Natural Disaster Prevention and Control.
In addition to providing aid for repairs and household kits, UNDP has also supported the construction of 20 safe new houses with storm- and flood-resilient features in Quang Nam and Quang Ngai, building on the success of its resilient housing models piloted through a separate Green Climate Fund (GCF)-funded project implemented jointly with the Government of Viet Nam. In order to ensure that the houses are an appropriate response to their location and its specific needs, those being built on Quang Ngai province’s Ly Son Island have even more resilient features to resist the strong winds and are powered by solar panels.