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news | December 21, 2016 | Kyrgyzstan | Rehabilitation

Build Back Safer: One year of increased earthquake resilience in southern Kyrgyzstan

Local engineers are studying the Build Back Safer manual.

One year after earthquake, ACTED assesses results of disaster mitigation action

Kylych Dadabaev, a farmer in the Chaichi village of Osh oblast in the south of Kyrgyzstan, used to lead a simple well-ordered life: an early morning work in the field growing crops or breeding cattle followed by cosy family evenings. Kylych’s life consisted of a calm and peaceful routine. However, the night of November 17, 2015, nearly ruined it all by taking one of the most important elements of his life: his house.

“We thank ACTED's project team, especially the engineers who provided us with the necessary construction materials, as well as technical assistance. I have participated in trainings on seismic retrofitting techniques, as well as a training about behavior during an earthquake, which were very useful for me. We have recently finished retrofitting our damaged rooms by using the construction materials and the technical knowledge provided by ACTED.” - Aitmatov Narynbek

The November 2015 earthquake

On November 17, 2015, a devastating 7.0- magnitude earthquake hit the Alai, Kara-Suu and Uzgen districts of Osh oblast in southern Kyrgyzstan. “My kids were afraid and we stayed outside for a while, to make sure that the earthquake stopped totally. Thank god, none of my family members got injured,” he recalls. Unfortunately, that cannot be said about Kylych’s house - it was one of 6,576 houses damaged by the disaster. However, as it was mostly affected from the inside with some walls cracked, the building was not eligible for the state support. Kylych’s family could not take a risk to live in; neither could they repair the house themselves. The whole household could have become homeless during the cold winter season.

An ACTED local staff member hands over a Build Back Safer manual to a beneficiary.

Supporting communities for better disaster preparedness

In view of severe winter conditions in Kyrgyzstan, ACTED prioritised shelter assistance as the most urgent need to be addressed. In close collaboration with the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the Kyrgyz Republic and with financial support from the Government of Switzerland, in December 2015, ACTED started its “Build Back Safer” project. The project provided reconstruction works to highly vulnerable earthquake-affected households, while at the same time worked to increase community resilience to future earthquakes in Osh oblast.

Local builders are studying ACTED's Build Back Safer manual.

ACTED’s engineers conducted technical assessments of 128 houses of the most vulnerable population in Uzgen and Kara-Suu districts of Osh oblast. Kylych’s house was selected to be among those assessed and repaired. “We removed the damaged plaster in accordance to ACTED engineer's recommendation,” said Kylych. “Then we got an iron grid to retrofit the walls according to the new safer technical standards provided by ACTED.” By providing construction materials and technical assistance, ACTED was closely engaged in every stage of the reconstruction. “During the retrofitting ACTED engineers visited us several time to demonstrate how to do retrofit properly and gave us necessary instructions.“ said Kylych.

6,576 houses were damaged by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake on 17 November 2016

Building local capacities for earthquake resilience

However, it’s the local community members themselves who did all the reconstruction works. After receiving trainings and manuals on affordable para-seismic construction norms and techniques, local builders, supported by the population, were able to do safe and solid reconstruction works. “Trainings on seismic retrofitting techniques were very useful for us. We recently finished retrofitting our damaged rooms,” shared Kylych. ACTED also ran information campaigns for the local population to raise awareness about risks and behaviour in case of earthquakes. These activities have improved community-based disaster preparedness, allowing the population to efficiently react to natural emergencies.

An ACTED engineer assists a local builder.