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Conflict and Natural Disasters
 
Thesis: Rehabilitation of earthquake victims
I am a final year student and giving my thesis. My topic regards the psychological and physical rehabilitation of these affected by the recent earthquake that struck the northern parts of Pakistan.

I would like to discuss how they can be rehabilitated through architecture? Is there more to it than just technology and structure?
Hira Qadeer
Responses
 
Thesis: Rehabilitation of earthquake victims
Hira,

Yes, there is more to architecture than just technology and structure (at least I hope so). :)))

My own feeling is that the designs created for the reconstruction should be a blend of both the local cultural aesthetic and enhanced safety. Both of these elements will reassure people that their culture and physical safety come before other considerations.

Therefore architectural designs should be based upon the local vernacular, but using today's modern knowledge of structural support to create a safe local vernacular style. And the use of modern technology in reconstruction should be kept to a sustainable level.

In other words, the modern equipment brought in needs to be both robust and easily serviceable by the local people and if necessary micro-industries should be developed to sustain the reconstruction long-term.
Frank John Snelling
Thesis: Rehabilitation of earthquake victims
Well, after such disasters take place, the fear of being in a built space settles in.

How can one cope with that? What design considerations should be kept in mind while designing for people who are in trauma?
Hira Qadeer
Thesis: Rehabilitation of earthquake victims
Rehabilitation of any "disaster" victims needs to consider very short term trauma and then long term effects.

In the short term you have fear, anger, anxiety, and loss. Severe loss. Loss of trust, loss of dear ones, loss of property. Among other factors. If we just stay with building strucures, one has to address these feelings. And a different location, considered safer, or has never been affected, away from the devastation, may be necessary.

On the long term, one needs to consider not only the robustness of the new construction, but also the way to address the same feelings. Will the same location remind them of the agony? Should they move elsewhere? If so, are there areas where relatives or people of the same culture/community could offer the victims a valuable support system?

These factors are crucial to the rehabilitation of people exposed to natural disasters.

In the case of earthquakes, where the earth moves, the solid, reliable earth ceases to be solid and reliable, a lot of underlying emotional assumptions are violated. A new location may be necessary. Or specific destruction spots, like a location susceptible to landslides, need to be specificaly addressed.

People know, in their hearts, that vulnerable spots will be vulnerable again. Many times a building is rebuilt in exactly the same spot, just waiting for the next event. And when this happens, people know. And they may move back, but they will continue living in fear and possibly having nightmares.

They have not exactly been rehabilitated.

Did this help?
Nando Cruz
Thesis: Rehabilitation of earthquake victims
Moving the victims to new locations is a very intelligent solution as it will ensure their safety and they will be away from the place which caused such tremendous amount of damage to them.

But the issue is that these people do not want to move away from their OWN piece of land. They want to live in the same place where they have been living for a long time, and it's familiar to them.

Temporary shelters were put up for them on flat grounds, but they were eager to go back to the mountains once the chilly weather was over.

Do you think that the children who suffered the most from the disaster should be provided with child empowerment centres which in turn become women empowerment centres also because children feel secure when their parents are around?

What activities do you think should be made a part of these empowerment centres besides basic education?
Hira Qadeer
Thesis: Rehabilitation of earthquake victims
Hira,

What you are talking about is resettlement after a disaster. As Nando says, provided the local terrain is suitable (no landslip, etc) then there is no reason to move people.

But if the area upon which a settlement has been built has loose or unstable earth, then resettlement and movement to firm ground is needed and can only be achieved if equivalent areas of land is made available for the people to own and use.

Empowerment of people comes when people feel reasonably comfortable and secure both in living in an area and owning the land they live and work on.
Frank John Snelling
Thesis: Rehabilitation of earthquake victims
Hira,

You are right. People develop a sense of belonging to the land where, in many cases, generations before them have lived.

But, and this comes to your last point, education, and, I would reinforce your point, participation, empowerment. Let the people participate in the decision, if permanent relocation is the solution.

Don't impose upon the people. Work with them, empower them. The women, particularly, since in most cultures they are the ones who will have to make a living closest to the land.
Nando Cruz
Thesis: Rehabilitation of earthquake victims
Please visit www.articlecity.com, and search for "munir moosa". You'll get my article out there, which is informative and would help you in your thesis.
Munir Moosa Sewani
Thesis: Rehabilitation of earthquake victims
Thank you so much all of you for such productive responses.

I also wanted to discuss how these people can own a space that is given to them, i.e a school or a community centre?

And I will come back to the question of what activities to include for children and their mothers if an empowerment centre is to be made?
Hira Qadeer
Thesis: Rehabilitation of earthquake victims
Hira,

(I have assumed that this is the proper way to address you... correct me if I am wrong)

How can they own? - ask them about what it should be. You may be surprised that in some cases all they may need is a bunch of benches under a shady tree. And let them help you design and build it, but facilitate the process with trained people. Self-built is the cheapest, but they need guidance. A community center is a great idea. It helps with your second question.

What activities? - again, ask them. But I would venture to say that the primary activities should be around rebuilding and recovering or restarting what was lost, what was interrupted. Rebuilding houses, patios, infrastructure, restarting school or group activities allows distressed people to feel connected. It helps people rebuild confidence in the future, something that is severely affected in such disasters. In these groups, small groups, activities are great opportunities to inform about vulnerable areas where one should not rebuild. A big problem because you are injecting modern knowledge on top of old traditions.

But involve the affected people. We tend to immediately give and forget that if the people are not part of the process they will not value what is given and they will still feel segregated, isolated, at a loss.
Nando Cruz
Thesis: Rehabilitation of earthquake victims
Fernando,

Brilliant. I agree with you all the way. :)))
Frank John Snelling
Thesis: Rehabilitation of earthquake victims
That is definitely true that without consulting the affected people, it is baseless to do anything for them.

I would also like your opinion on what is the difference between 'Psychological Healing' and 'Psychological Rehabilitation'?

Because I am afraid that I might get into spiritual healing and might deviate!!

If you could also help me find Japanese Technology of Construction in earthquake prone zones!

And yess this is the correct way to address me :))))
Hira Qadeer
Thesis: Rehabilitation of earthquake victims
Hira,

My opinion, you ask, on the difference between 'Psychological Healing' and 'Psychological Rehabilitation'- well, I believe that reabilitation comes after healing. In practice the two may evolve in parallel, feeding one on the other. The world at large likes to believe otherwise. But, having pursued the topic of reabilitation I came to the conclusion that healing needs to happen first. Healing is more internal. You heal your fears, your feelings, your pain, your sense of loss. You reabilitate your skills, your capabilities to cope, your courage, your defenses. You can do some reabilitation without healing but I do not think you become a wholesome person that way.

Yes, you may become a bit spiritual in these affairs, but if that is what it takes to heal, then we should not ignore it. Each culture, each person has specific needs, and they have to be addressed at the level that makes sense for the individual.

Japanese Technology of Construction in earthquake prone zones - I am not familiar with technology details, but if I come across anything specific I will let you know. I do know that their standards/technologies are constantly changing as they get experience, unfortunately, from the constant barrage of earthquakes they experience. I was reading a book on small houses, some of which built in Japan, and the author pointed at some examples as the result of such evolving requirements/needs.
Nando Cruz
Thesis: Rehabilitation of earthquake victims
Hira, The whole of Japan is in an earthquake zone and the vernacular or traditional types of architecture used have been evolved over many hundreds of years specifically for weathering earthquakes.

The usual type of house has a timber-frame (tensile) structure because wood has more flexibility and so able to bend but not necessarily breakup in an earthquake.

These houses made of wood and wood products (paper) are more at risk from fires or lamps upset in an earthquake and therefore there were separate fireproof stone-walled storehouses.

Given that most of the destruction that earthquakes do is to homemade housing in rural areas, then I would say you should concentrate upon the traditional low-tech solutions of vernacular architecture rather than the extremely expensive "modern construction technologies" used for modern urban high-rise buildings.

The old saying "The larger they are the harder they fall." is appropriate to any building in an earthquake zone.

A "rule of thumb" for the magnitude of force is mass x distance. Thus the higher the building the more force there is to crush people when it falls. Similarly, the higher the building is, the more unstable and more likely to the building is to fall.

Plus, most land-based architecture and buildings are not designed for any sideways force other than wind. In other words most land-based buildings assume that the earth will never ever move and therefore gravity is the only force holding up these buildings.

A simple test of how well a building design will work in an earthqauke is to build one on a tilting test rig and then tilt the whole building, sooner or later the building will collapse if it does not have a tensile frame structure to maintain integrity.

For myself, I would advocate a hybrid structure with the lower part of any wall being solid and the upper part made of a tensile frame, and light plaster laid on a fibre-mat base. then in the event of an earthquake, the tensile structure will sway but probably not break up and if the lower solid wall part falls over, then the force and impact will be very small.
Frank John Snelling
Thesis: Rehabilitation of earthquake victims
I would again like to talk about:
HOW CAN REHABILITATION BE DONE THROUGH ARCHITECTURE?
I know that this was the first question i put up but we kind of got into technology and did not look at it as a concept.
Hira Qadeer
Thesis: Rehabilitation of earthquake victims
Hira, I hope I answered your original question on March 17th. :)))
Frank John Snelling
Thesis: Rehabilitation of earthquake victims
Frank,
yess i remember what you wrote regarding my initial question, but i wanted to talk about what are the elements of architecture that could be incorporated in the design?

ofcourse technology is as important, but what about catering to their psychological needs like depression, anxiety, confusion and fear. Can a happy environment be created?

I would also like to ask you what kind of activities and facilities should be provided to orphans and single parents who are helpless after the disaster?

I am thinking about designing a centre where they could live and learn. What do you think about that?
Hira Qadeer
Thesis: Rehabilitation of earthquake victims
Hira, Essentially, orphans and single parents are fractured elements which need to be put back together. I would say self-help groups can be created by two or more single parents joining together to work together for the common good of the combined family group. Similarly orphans need to feel they are part of a family group even if the group is composed of two or more single parents together.

As regards the feeling of helplessness and shock in the face of overwhelming disaster. I would say that work and working together has the therapeutic effect of healing their self-esteem. If someone who is in pain (and most pain is internalised) has to focus outwards to help others, then the pain lessens because they no longer have their attention focused inwards.

As regards designing spaces which help to heal and rehabilitate. I would say anywhere where people can meet and work together easily and in comfort and of course the space needs to be somewhere where people are not be afraid that the roof will fall in.

So yes, the idea of communal centres is a good one provided it agrees with the viewpoint of the local culture.
Frank John Snelling
Thesis: Rehabilitation of earthquake victims
Hira,

ask yourself - how did these people live before the earthquake? How did their lives evolve on a day to day basis? What made them feel secure? And part of a safe environment?

Your community center should address these questions.

I am not sure if you are familiar with the traditional Bali homestead. Imagine now that the community was rased and the homes disappeared. You came in and built a community center with walls. Facing the gorgeous view in the valley.

You can see that the walls would have created a new environment, a new type of building to them. Protective, but new. Different. This would have caused stress! Regardless of the activities! The view to the valley would be counter to their concept of "facing the mountain" and "facing the ocean."

In this scenario, I would veture to say that it did not matter what activities you organized. These people would have stayed allienated.

But if you respected their traditional building concepts, and, for example, instead of bringing in tapped water to the center, you actually brought water to a community fountain, in the open air, something that would be counter to our immediate thinking, right? I mean, if you could bring water to the center, why not?

I would venture to say that water brought to a community fountain would have restored the "water collecting" activities that made these people feel at home before the earhquake.

These, I think, are the healing activities you need to think about.
Nando Cruz
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