When the earthquake and tsunami hit nations in the Indian Ocean in 2004, more than 230,000 lives were lost. In total, the tsunami displaced more than two million people in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and India, and completely devastated more than half a million houses.
In the Banda Aceh Region, against the total devastation of entire fishing villages, the international emergency response was massive, with numerous aid organizations hastily trying to rebuild local housing as fast as possible, at tremendous overall cost, in order to enable households to return to their lives and livelihoods. But without international, governmental, or inter-organizational coordination or agreement on building and design standards, the result was a mosaic of very difficult shelter designs, styles, and inconsistent quality, built almost entirely according to aid agencies own plans and ideas about local housing. Little consideration was given, and little or no local consultation occurred regarding the tsunami victims’ preferences or cultural styles of habitation organization. Ultimately many of the dwellings built by aid agencies were never occupied, or were later abandoned as their styles, configurations, and proximity to livelihoods was not consistent with local socio-economic and cultural norms.