Humanitarian or emergency shelter is relevant in cases of natural disaster, conflict or displacement where people have lost or abandoned their homes. It includes physical protection from the elements as well as providing a safe, dignified place to live. There is a multitude of options for the delivery of humanitarian shelter: from NFIs, through cash transfer, advocacy, kits, training, repair programmes, to the construction of temporary housing. A shelter programme is not confined to the construction of temporary houses or the provision of NFIs.
The scale is often unimaginable – a quarter of a million homes destroyed is not unusual for a major disaster. Our challenge is to have a significant impact that leaves a legacy of DRR and improved building practice.
Shelter is a process and not just a product. CARE’s shelter programmes should support and enable people to establish shelter and housing which meet their individual and collective needs. To do so there are several different modalities of support. These are listed and discussed in section 4 What to do: Shelter programming and a menu of options.
- Household non-food items (clothing, bedding, kitchen sets, lights, stoves, fuel etc)
- Emergency shelter materials (plastic sheeting, shelter kits, tents, tools & construction materials).
- Support to host families
- Construction of temporary shelters or houses for the most vulnerable
- Support to the process of self-recovery
- Cash transfers (including conditional and unconditional, restricted and unrestricted, vouchers etc)
- Technical assistance for use of materials provided and to promote improved construction techniques
- Collective centres
- Legal assistance or establishing of ownership and land rights
The affected population is the first responder and the most important stakeholder. The community, whether affected by natural disaster or forcibly displaced due to climate change or conflict, is always the first on the scene and the first to provide shelter assistance. In major emergencies it is not uncommon for 80%, or more, of the population to rebuild their own homes in a process of self-recovery and it is clear that rebuilding better, safer homes is vital to reducing vulnerability and increasing community resilience.
Shelter responses are always context specific. No two emergencies are ever the same: there are virtually no off-the-shelf solutions. While learning should be shared and lessons can have universal application, it is nevertheless true that each disaster is unique and demands an un-blinkered and unprejudiced approach. The expertise, knowledge and development experience of local partners and COs are essential to the successful outcome of a shelter project.
Shelter should be seen as holistic and integrated. Shelter is more than just walls and a roof. CARE always looks for ways to respond to shelter needs that reflect a broad, holistic approach – and one that doesn’t necessarily imply construction. A good shelter programme will have a positive effect on gender equality, DRR, accountability, health, well-being, livelihoods. A house and home that is durable and appropriate is a step towards resilience and the reduction of long-term vulnerability.
Good shelter programming will always have a strong focus on women and girls. CARE’s shelter programmes should focus on ensuring dignified protection of people against the elements (wind, rain, cold, heat etc) and other risks (gender-based violence, theft, trauma, exploitation, natural hazards etc) during an emergency and during recovery or stabilisation. CARE’s shelter programmes should be inclusive and meet the needs of all women, girls, men and boys, and also take opportunities to empower women and girls.
Women and girls spend a disproportionate amount of time in their homes: a good shelter programme will involve and empower women. Collecting and analysis of disaggregated information is essential to understanding the context for design of shelter programmes. Women and girls should be centre stage in every phase of the process.
The Global Shelter Cluster is led by the IFRC in cases of natural disaster and by UNHCR when displacement is due to conflict. Other international organisations, notably IOM and UN Habitat, can also lead the cluster.
The Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) cluster is co-led by IOM (natural disasters) and UNHCR (conflict related displacement). CARE is rarely involved in camp coordination and management.
CARE positioning within the shelter cluster system
CARE has adopted shelter as one of the core humanitarian specialisms because of the clear humanitarian need. Moreover CARE is one of the few major dual-mandated agencies that counts shelter as one of their core competencies. We play an important role advocating for considered and high quality shelter programmes within international forums including the Global Shelter Cluster. By doing shelter we not only respond to a massive need, but we also increase the take-up and quality of shelter across the humanitarian community.
Our key shelter principles
- The affected population is the first responder and the most important stakeholder. CARE’s approach to shelter prioritises the self-recovery of affected households and communities.
- Shelter responses are always context specific: each emergency is unique and off-the-shelf solutions are rare.
- Shelter should be seen as “holistic”: there are clear overlaps with other sectors, health, livelihoods, WASH, protection, DRR, and so on. Good shelter programming will draw on the development capacity of COs and will partner with local NGOs and CBOs.
- There is a multitude of options for the delivery of emergency shelter: from NFIs, through cash transfer, advocacy, kits, training, repair programmes, self-recovery support to the construction of temporary housing.
- Good shelter programming will always have a strong focus on women and girls.