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“Finally, we have a resilient house to protect our lives and assets”
Publish date 03/01/2019 | 18:06

Ms. Nguyen Thi Mua is inside her new resilient house. Story and photo: UNDP Viet Nam/Phan Huong Giang

“A long time ago, suffering from many storms and high-level sea rise, we used to dream of a safe home”, said Ms. Nguyen Thi Mua, 50 years old. “You cannot imagine that in the historical flood of 1999, the water was over our window. Many times, we have had to borrow money to make repairs after yearly typhoons”.

Mua, her husband and four children live in Vinh Hai commune, Thua Thien Hue province and depend on rice cultivation for survival. However, over recent years salinization has dramatically reduced crop productivity, putting them in a precarious situation.

When neighbours hire them to harvest rice fields, dig potatoes or to be masons, they can earn up to 3 million dongs (or US$129) per month. “Due to our health, however, we have not been able to work and earn any money for a few months. My husband has mental health issues and I used to have heart disease,” Mua shared.

Mua’s family home is close to the sea – only 300 meters from the water. This makes them the first in their community to be affected by sea-level rise and typhoons. Unfortunately, they are unable to build a house that is robust enough to withstand extreme weather events. “All the little money that we earn, we have to spend on food, our children’s education and other things. We used to dream to have a safe house every night,” she added.

Thua Thien Hue province is located on the coast of Viet Nam and is frequently impacted by typhoons and flooding. In 2017 alone, five typhoons and two high-level floods hit the province. These are expected to increase in frequency and strength in the next decades.

Local housing is poorly adapted to hazards. As reported by the provincial authorities, in 2017, 79,000 houses were flooded and over 1,000 others were damaged by storms.

“My area is often flooded and we usually have to move to one of my neighbours’ houses for two or three days because they are located at a higher altitude”, she said as she pointed towards them.

In 2018, her new resilient house is one of 85 being built under the UN Development Programme and the Green Climate Fund-supported project, ‘Improving the Resilience of Vulnerable Coastal Communities to Climate Change Related Impacts in Viet Nam’.

Through the construction of resilient-housing, this project will benefit poor families, female-headed households and families caring for people with disability. These new houses are expected to withstand natural disasters and extreme weather events.

Her new two-room house is based on a design that her family chose. New features include a mezzanine to protect against flooding, reinforced roofing and the use of strong cement.

“Since we have this resilient house, we feel much safer. Now, if there is a flood, we can move our belongings, rice and the children’s books to the mezzanine level,” she smiled. “Thanks to the great support of the project, the commune and our neighbours, finally we have a resilient house to protect our lives and assets. We could not sleep for many nights because we were so happy.”