Shelter needs intensify as the fasting month approaches

Published: 16 June 2015 6:00 CET

By Ika Koeck, IFRC

At noontime, the heat and humidity rising from the ground in Kelantan was overpowering, but not strong enough to deter the villagers of Kampung Aur Duri and Kampung Dusun Nyior from attending the community meeting organized at their newly built mosque. Their excitement and anticipation was palpable as they listened to a briefing about the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme planned by the Malaysian Red Crescent Society.  

Just six months ago, many parts of Kelantan State and several others in the East Coast of Malaysia were inundated by floodwaters that rose as high as 30 metres. Over 200,000 people were displaced by  the worst floods Malaysia has seen in the last 30 years.

Like many of the villagers, 41-year old Hamidah is now living in a canvas tent. “The flood took everything I had in just one night”, she said. “My family and I have nowhere to live as that was the only land we owned.” In the first few weeks, Hamidah’s children stayed at the evacuation centre while she and her husband slept in a tent on their land. The living conditions were just too harsh for her children, and the villagers were exposed to a multitude of diseases including diarrhoea, e-coli and dengue. “I am looking forward to receiving the cash grant, especially with so much work that still needs to be done on the house,” she added with a hopeful smile.  

For many, the support could not have come at a better time. With the fasting month of Ramadan just a few weeks away, the villagers are eager to finish rebuilding their homes, particularly in celebration of Eid, which comes at the end of the 30-day fasting period. The programme, a first by the Red Crescent and part of the IFRC’s plan of action, targets the three villages adopted by the National Society earlier in the year.  74 households from the village of Kampung Aur Duri, Dusun Nyiur and Keluat will receive RM 2,000 (USD 530.00). The first RM 1,000 (USD 265.00) must be used to repair houses and build latrines. The remaining amount has no set conditions.  

“We’ve made the use of first RM 1,000 conditional because we’re trying to encourage the villagers to use the money to repair and rebuild their homes instead of spending it on other things,” said Vinod Muniandy, Project Coordinator from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) which is supporting the Malaysian Red Crescent. “Some houses are still lacking latrines and we’ve had reports that villagers are practicing open defecation by the river. With this mechanism in place, we can be sure that the latrines will be built and homes will be well equipped before Eid.”  The first payment is expected to be transferred to individual households in the next two weeks, while the remaining amount will be banked after the Eid celebration.

Further assessments are being made of  another 103 families, who will be receive support based on their immediate needs and vulnerability. In the first six months of the operation, the National Society has built and delivered temporary shelters to affected households in the three adopted villages, with more planned in a fourth village.  

Misnan Kasan, the Adoption Village Project Manager for the Malaysian Red Crescent, explained that the support from the National Society does not end with the money transfer. “The Red Crescent has several programmes lined up, particularly hygiene promotion activities and first aid,” he said. “We will also provide training on how to use speedboats during emergencies, and also equip the villagers with several boats to be used when needed.”  

Misnan stressed the importance of disaster risk reduction activities to build local capacity, an idea echoed in IFRC’s plan of action to increase the resilience of communities affected by disaster through risk reduction interventions.