The Uganda government together with the United Nations and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees last held the Uganda Solidarity Summit on Refugees that run from 22nd – 23rd June. It was attended by 20 International NGOs and Development agencies and hosted by António Guterres, UN Secretary-General and H.E Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda. The aim of the Summit was to raise support and funding from the international community for the next four years and by the end of the Summit, more than $358 million was pledged.
Uganda has been hailed internationally as “one of the world’s largest refugee hosting countries.” Estimates put the number of refugees at over 1.2 million that hail from the neighbouring war ravaged countries of Burundi, Congo and South Sudan. Bidi Bidi refugee settlement in Uganda, located merely 40kms from the South Sudan border houses more than 950,000 refugees from South Sudan and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees expects this to grow by 300,000 in 2017 alone.
The refugees live in simple semi-permanent houses built with mud, wood and wattle. This has taken a heavy toll on the environment, especially forests and woodlands in the surrounding areas. These large populations are completely dependent on wood to build which consume millions of trees a year, resulting in the total destruction of forests.
The conflicts in Southern Sudan and neighbouring countries may go on for a while, Development Organisations and NGOs need to consider moving away from semi-permanent to more sustainable permanent housing solutions which the local native populations would later inhabit after the refugees are repatriated. On average, 2 parents and 3 children live in a single semi-permanent house in the refugee settlements; if applied to a total of 1.2 million refugees, the result would be a minimum of 240,000 housing units that Development Organisations and NGOs would need to cater for.
The TechBuilding System offers the perfect solution; it manufactures reinforced Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) panels that are assembled onsite, after which concrete plastering is then applied. Not only does the finished structure have a tensile strength 5 times stronger than a conventional brick and timber structure; it has a minimal negative impact on the environment, as no timber in required at all during the construction process which would relieve the strain on the natural resources like forests and rivers that are being degraded at an unsustainable rate in many of the refugee camps.
The absence of habitable accommodation in the refugee camps is a huge crisis that needs to be addressed urgently, time is of the essence and one of the main advantages of the TechBuilding System is the speed of construction; for instance, ten 50 sqm low cost housing units can be built in only 3 weeks. Development Agencies and NGOs nowadays put huge emphasis on sustainability when it comes to the use of funds; the return and impact of every dollar spent is closely controlled and the TechBuilding System is 30% cheaper for large scale projects.
As Development Organisations and NGOs formulate solutions to shelter the growing number of refugees, sustainability should be at the fore front of their programmes. Innovative solutions like the TechBuilding System that minimize the environmental impact on natural resources must be considered.