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Pakistan: building blocks of the future

In October 2005, the Pakistan earthquake pulverised buildings into concrete pancakes and killed an estimated 73,000 people. Amjad Jamal looks at a WFP initiative to help build quake-resistant buildings.

In October 2005, the Pakistan earthquake pulverised buildings into concrete pancakes and killed an estimated 73,000 people. Amjad Jamal looks at a WFP initiative to make special bricks destined for quake-resistant buildings.

Out of each disaster, some wonders do occur. The most dramatic wonders are those that involve human beings being pulled alive from the rubble of an earthquake…but lesser

We use food in a very constructive way to support training of women and livelihoods creation
Michael Jones, WFP Representative in Pakistan

wonders can follow – for example, in the form of bricks.

The rebuilding of an entire community’s infrastructure may take years, but with WFP’s help, it’s quicker and safer.

Turning its attention from emergency food aid for the survivors to emergency building, WFP investigated modified brick-making machines.

Strong enough for tremors

What makes the bricks produced different from the traditional stones previously used is that they are inter-locking and can withstand seismic activity

“We adapted the blocks to make them inter-locking. This avoids the need for mortar and associated costs and also makes the structures more elastic and therefore more resistant to seismic activity,” says Michael Jones, WFP Representative in Pakistan.

The machines brought into operation late last year have helped produce some 145,605 bricks, made entirely of mud. This has also been a source of income for the people of the region.

Livelihood creation

WFP stipulated that the bricks be used first for rebuilding infrastructure - animal shelters, boundary walls and latrines – then the surplus could be sold by the community to generate income.

Copyright: 2007 WFP/Amjad Jamal

“We use food in a very constructive way to support training of women and livelihoods creation. Or we give people the food in exchange for them providing themselves with infrastructure, training and marketable skills that allow them to diversify their incomes,” says Michael Jones.

Through its implementing partners, WFP organised demonstrations to familiarise the communities of Mansehra and Battagram Districts. Preparation of the mixture and the drying process were discussed.

Gradually, the inter-locking bricks have become more popular for building houses than the traditional stones and wood.

Rolling up their sleeves

It is hoped that the images of one and a half years ago, where buildings listed at a 45 degree angle like beached ocean liners, and tangles of criss-crossed steel emerged from the rubble which had crushed so many people, won't be repeated.

The smiles have returned to the faces of those who suffered the ravages of the earthquake as more and more people are rolling up their sleeves and rebuilding their homes – and their futures.

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