BUILDING MATERIALS SUPPLY – A STRATEGY FOR DISASTER RELIEF. CIDEM’s Actions in Villa Clara

By Fernando Martirena  

When Hurricane Lili tore through Cuba in October of this year, the municipality of Sagua Grande was prepared to confront the aftermath. The action strategy developed by CIDEM consists of creating local conditions for the application of building technologies and production of materials in the affected area, conveniently adapted to the specific regional characteristics. Ecomaterials production, therefore, becomes a basic condition to begin any reconstruction action based upon sustainable criteria, since it allows the creation of local bases to eliminate external dependencies for building materials supply.

AdobesThe increase of natural catastrophes over the last ten years, together with their unlucky effects on the vulnerable economies of developing countries, captured CIDEM's interest. In contrast to the "traditional" solutions of post-disaster response, this time they are aimed at the sustainable solution of repair/construction of buildings and houses on the whole, instead of urgent solutions which become definite in the long run, to the detriment of people's living conditions.

CIDEM has been working with this aim since 1996 when another hurricane Lily devastated a very large part of Villa Clara province. Subsequently, this thrust continued in Central America, where projects that relocated villagers from flood areas to safer ones in Nicaragua and Honduras were organized as a consequence of hurricane Mitch.

By means of those projects, EcoSouth partners have built hundreds of houses and created dozens of jobs in those countries. More recently, CIDEM has been playing a major role in reconstruction actions after hurricane Michelle affected large portions of Villa Clara and Matanzas provinces in November 2001.

CIDEM and EcoSouth organized the Second International Conference on Ecomaterials with the support of some international organizations in September 2001. More than 150 specialists from about 29 countries took part in this convention whose main theme was "Disaster Prevention and Relief", and where experiences from teams working on many post-disaster reconstruction projects in different parts of the world were presented. This Conference became an example for international co-ordination programs as well as a recognition of the teams' work on this topic.

The Social Relationship

CIDEM's research work has always been related to social house construction projects. Its actions has focused on Villa Clara's northern zone due to its vulnerability to meteorological phenomena, such as strong hurricanes, floods, etc. Since 1996, the city of Sagua la Grande has been a place of much reconstruction activity, and more recently, Caibarién, Quemado de Guines and Camajuani have also become centers of these actions. All these municipalities were strongly affected

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