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Oxfam innovates to tackle shelter crisis in earthquake zone

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October 19, 2005

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October 20, 2005 Aid organisation Oxfam International is having to innovate to fill the gaps in shelter provision for the hundreds of thousands of people left homeless by the recent Asian earthquake. The current lack of thermal tents combined with the massive logistical challenges in getting aid to the most inaccessible areas is putting thousands of victims of the quake in danger.

"The lack of easily available tents means we're having to think of new ways of doing things and fast. We've already taken over a tent factory in Pakistan but we're also looking for other solutions. In India we've just designed and built a shelter that ordinary people can put together from locally available materials.

"These temporary shelters could house thousands and be the difference between life and death," said Ashok Prasad, an Oxfam aid worker.

The temporary shelters have been five years in development. They have been tested in cold storage warehouses and in wind tunnels: • They are low in cost - around $140 per unit. • Sleep a family of 6 people. • Use only locally available materials, - plastic sheeting, ordinary plastic piping, felt insulation, rope. (Oxfam has checked and all of these are available on the local markets.) • The tunnel shaped design maximises internal living space, especially important for the winter when long periods will be spent inside the tent. • Well-insulated. They retain heat better than tents with their felt lining and layers designed to trap air. • They are easy and quick to construct and require no tools to put together "What makes these shelters so good is that they are easy to assemble, low in cost, the materials can be bought locally and most of all they are warm. We've already shared these designs with local people, other aid agencies and local officials and the response has been universally positive. The shelter challenge is massive and we're going to have to continue to innovate to overcome all the challenges, " added Prasad.

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About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
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