Flood-resilient houses: Safety belt to sustainable poverty reduction in Central Vietnam

November 03, 2020 | 17:45
The policy on building storm and flood-resilient houses for needy households using loans from the Vietnam Bank for Social Policy (VBSP) with support from state budget can lend a helping hand for households to get out of poverty.

Recent tragic floods have left critical impacts on Le Thuy district (Quang Binh province), taking locals assets and livelihoods. While not spared the rod entirely, the thousands of local households residing in storm and flood-resilient houses have suffered the least impacts. Many of these homeowners have opened their doors to welcome their neighbours in these tough times.

Safe amid tragic floods

These safe shelters were built following the spirit of the prime minister’s Decision No.48/2014/QD-TTg on supporting needy people throughout 14 provinces in Central Vietnam to build storm and flood-resilient houses. The recent climate tragedy once again attests to the usefulness of these shelters, helping poor people live in safety and avoid the enduring critical consequences of natural disasters.

flood resilient houses safety belt to sustainable poverty reduction in central vietnam
The flood-resilient house of Truong Thi Tinh in Gio Linh commune, Gio Linh district, Quang Tri province

One such flood-resilient house had saved the family of Nguyen Van Duoc in My Thuy hamlet, Son Thuy commune, Le Thuy district from losing everything, the way other families in the hamlet did.

Duoc built the house using a concessionary loan from the VBSP’s Quang Binh branch.

Meanwhile, Duong Thi Trinh’s family had built their flood-resilient house from a VND15 million ($650) loan taken from VBSP to add to their own savings.

“We are so lucky to have a safe house to live in this tough time while many others did not have our luck,” said Trinh.

Besides the families of Duoc and Trinh, nearly 2,500 other flood-resilient houses stood strong against historic floods in the past nearly three decades.

VBSP also wanted the government to allot capital in a timely manner, helping the bank to provide loans to beneficiaries in the right time.

According to VBSP director in Quang Binh province Tran Van Tai, after Decision 48 came into force, the branch has directly met and encouraged needy households in the province to build storm and flood-resilient houses. So far, the branch has disbursed capital to nearly 68 per cent of households in the lending scheme.

In Quang Tri province, warm images of flood-resilient houses can be spotted across the province. Sitting in her cosy house after the flood, Truong Thi Tinh in Mai Xa 2 group, Gio Linh commune, Gia Linh district said she felt so happy with the decision to use the VBSP loan to build the house.

Her family built the safe house back in 2015 using a VBSP loan and their savings. The family also used the capital from the bank to raise pigs, and most recently in early 2020 they took up another loan from the bank to buy one more buffalo with the hope they can soon break out of poverty.

VBSP director in Quang Tri Nguyen Duc Dong said the branch has lent to 1,439 needy households in the province to build resilient houses in light of Decision 48. The branch has supported families not in their lending scheme to access other preferential loans for house repairs.

“The support policy to build storm and flood-resilient houses for local households has significant values economically, politically, and socially, yet garnering wide support from people across the region. As the practical results of the policy have contributed a great deal to ensuring social well-being by pushing up the national programme on new rural development, our bank has scaled up efforts to ensure its swift and effective implementation from the beginning,” said Dong.

Removing bottlenecks

Following wide implementation and efficient supervision across 14 localities in the central region, as of now, VBSP’s total outstanding loan balance was reported at VND192.91 trillion ($8.4 billion), with 13,148 customers. Of this, 453 households took up VND6.8 billion ($295,650) of loans to build resilient houses.

The recent historic flood once again proved the efficiency of flood-resilient houses, which not only helps needy households reinforce their housing, secure stable production, and cultivate a safe community, but also contributes to mitigating the impacts of natural disasters and climate change.

“The recent tragedy shows that the model of flood-resilient households should be extended to cover more than just needy households in the community, particularly those in flood-prone areas,” said Nguyen Van Thuc, chairman of People’s Committee in Son Thuy commune, Le Thuy district.

flood resilient houses safety belt to sustainable poverty reduction in central vietnam
Inside the flood-resilient house in a local household in Thua Thien-Hue province

A recent survey in stakeholder areas showed that some bottlenecks hinder the construction of storm and flood-resilient houses in the central region. Accordingly, support level from the state budget or VBSP’s lending level of VND15 million is deemed too low compared to the actual capital demand for building such houses.

In some locations, even where support level reaches VND30 million ($1,300) after receiving additional funding from the Green Climate Facility (GCF), local households are less enthusiastic to build such houses, leading to slow capital disbursement.

In some cases, local households have started building such houses, but they were found in violation of regulations, so they could not fulfil lending procedures to take a loan from VBSP.

To expand the construction of such safe shelters for people amid increasingly complicated climate conditions with severe consequences, Trang Van Tai from the Quang Binh branch of VBSP requested the government and relevant management agencies to extend the duration of the lending programme in favour of poor households to build flood-resilient houses.

The lending level from VBSP and support from the state budget is proposed to be raised further, extending access to these loans to more households such as those near the poverty line.

VBSP also wanted the government to allot capital in a timely manner, helping the bank to provide loans to beneficiaries in the right time. Communal-level People’s Committees need to process the papers of policy beneficiaries, helping to smoothen VBSP’s lending process.

In the meantime, it is also important to step up inspection and communicate activities about the lending programme to ensure supporting capital goes to right people in the right time, providing needy households another tool to help them get out of poverty sustainably.

By Hong Thuy

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