Select your language

Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response

Shelter and settlement standard 1: Strategic planning

Shelter and settlement strategies contribute to the security, safety, health and well-being of both displaced and non-displaced affected populations and promote recovery and reconstruction where possible.

Key actions 
(to be read in conjunction with the guidance notes)

Key indicators (to be read in conjunction with the guidance notes)

Guidance notes

  1. Assessment, consultation and coordination: An initial needs assessment is essential to identify the shelter and settlement needs of the affected population, post-disaster risks, vulnerabilities and capacities, opportunities to address recovery from the outset and the need for more detailed assessment including environmental impact. The disaster-affected population (especially vulnerable people with specific needs), along with the relevant authorities, should be involved in any such assessment. Existing contingency plans should be used to inform response activities, in coordination with the relevant authorities, humanitarian and other agencies and the affected population using agreed coordination mechanisms. The availability of resources, the local context (including seasonal weather patterns), security and access to existing or new sites and land will inform response planning (see Core Standards 1–5Non-food items standards 1–5 and Appendix 1: Shelter, settlement and non-food items assessment checklist).
  2. Return: The opportunity to return to their own land and dwellings is a major goal for most disaster-affected populations. The repair of dwellings or the upgrading of shelter solutions determined by the population themselves supports communal coping strategies, retains established settlement patterns and enables the use of existing infrastructure (see Core Standard 1). Return may be delayed or prevented and so require a period of temporary settlement elsewhere. Issues affecting return include the continuation of the disaster, such as ongoing flooding, landslides or earthquake aftershocks, and security concerns, such as occupation of property or land and the need for restitution, continuing violent conflict, ethnic or religious tension, fear of persecution or landmines and unexploded ordnance. The reconstruction of schools is also important to enable displaced populations to return. Return by female-headed households, those widowed or orphaned by the disaster, or persons with disabilities may be inhibited by inadequate or discriminatory land and property legislation or customary procedures. Displaced populations who may not have the ability to undertake reconstruction activities may also be discouraged or prevented from returning.
  3. Hosting by families and communities: Displaced populations who are unable to return to their original homes often prefer to stay with other family members or people with whom they share historical, religious or other ties (see Core Standard 1). Assistance for such hosting may include support to expand or adapt an existing host family shelter and facilities to accommodate the displaced household, or the provision of an additional separate shelter adjacent to the host family. The resulting increase in population density should be assessed and the demand on social facilities, infrastructure provision and natural resources should be evaluated and mitigated.The resulting increase in population density and demand on social facilities, infrastructure provision and natural resources should be assessed and mitigated.
  4. Temporary communal settlement: Although they should not become a default response, temporary planned camps can be used to accommodate affected populations who are unable or unwilling to return to the site of their original dwelling and for whom hosting by other families is not an option. Such settlement solutions may be required in areas where security threats increase the risk to isolated populations or where access to essential services and resources such as water, food and locally sourced building materials is limited. Existing buildings used as collective centres can provide rapid temporary protection from the climate. Buildings used for such purposes may require adaptation or upgrading, for example the provision of internal subdivisions and ramps for those with mobility difficulties. In many countries, the use of pre-identified buildings for collective centres is the established response to known types of disaster, with associated management and service provision responsibilities. Although school buildings are often used to accommodate disaster-affected populations, alternative structures should be identified to enable schooling to continue. The planning of temporary communal settlements should consider the implications on the personal safety, privacy and dignity of occupants and access to essential facilities. It is necessary to ensure that temporary communal settlements do not themselves become targets for attack, pose a security risk to the surrounding population or result in unsustainable demands on the surrounding natural environment.
  5. Types of shelter assistance: Combinations of different types of assistance may be required to meet the shelter needs of affected populations. Basic assistance can include personal items, such as clothing and bedding, or general household items, such as stoves and fuel. Shelter support items can include tents, plastic sheeting and toolkits, building materials and temporary or transitional shelters using materials that can be reused as part of permanent shelters. Manual or specialist labour, either voluntary or contracted, may also be required, as well as technical guidance on appropriate building techniques. The use of cash or vouchers to promote the use of local supply chains and resources should be considered, subject to the functioning of the local economy. Cash can also be used to pay for rental accommodation. Information or advice distributed through public campaigns or local centres on how to access grants, materials or other forms of shelter support can complement commodity-based assistance.
  6. Transitional shelter: An approach rather than a phase of response, the provision of transitional shelter responds to the fact that post-disaster shelter is often undertaken by the affected population themselves, and this self-management should be supported (see Core Standard 1). Post-disaster shelter solutions that can be reused in part or in whole in more permanent structures, or relocated from temporary to permanent locations, can promote the transition by affected populations to more durable shelter. For non-displaced populations on the site of their original homes, transitional shelter can provide a basic starter home, to be upgraded, expanded or replaced over time as resources permit. For displaced populations, transitional shelter can provide appropriate shelter which can be disassembled and reused when the affected populations are able to return to the sites of their original homes or resettled in new locations. Transitional shelter can also be provided to affected populations hosted by other households who can accommodate the erection of an adjacent or adjoining shelter. Any such structures can be removed and reused when the affected populations are able to return to their original sites or elsewhere.
  7. Risk, vulnerability and hazard assessments: Undertake and regularly review a comprehensive risk and vulnerability assessment (see Core Standard 3). Actual or potential security threats and the unique risks and vulnerabilities due to age, gender, disability, social or economic status, the dependence of affected populations on natural environmental resources, and the relationships between affected populations and any host communities should be included in any such assessments (see Protection Principle 3). Risks posed by natural hazards such as earthquakes, volcanic activity, landslides, flooding or high winds should inform the planning of shelter and settlement solutions. Settlement locations should not be prone to diseases or contamination or have significant vector risks. Potentially hazardous materials and goods can be deposited or exposed following natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods and typhoons. Mines and unexploded ordnance can be present due to previous or current conflicts. The stability of building structures in inhabited areas affected by the disaster should be assessed by technical specialists. For collective centres, the ability of existing building structures to accommodate any additional loading and the increased risk of the failure of building components such as floors, internal dividing walls, roofs, etc., should be assessed.
  8. Debris removal: The removal of debris following a natural disaster or conflict is a priority to enable the provision of shelter and the establishment of appropriate settlement solutions. Debris management planning should be initiated immediately after the disaster to ensure debris can be recycled or identified for separation, collection and/or treatment (see Shelter and settlement standard 5 ). Key issues include the presence of corpses requiring identification and appropriate handling, the retrieval of personal possessions, structurally dangerous locations and hazardous materials and ownership of salvageable materials for reuse or sale. The removal of debris may provide opportunities for cash for work programmes and/or require the use of major equipment and expertise to undertake. The use, management, ownership and environmental impact of disposal sites should be considered.
  9. Schools, health facilities and community infrastructure: Access to essential services should be ensured, including schools, health facilities, safe play areas and communal meeting areas. Existing or repaired service infrastructure should be used, with additional temporary services or facilities as required. Where the repair or construction of public buildings is subject to the development of new settlement plans or other regulatory processes, temporary structures may be required to provide immediate, short-term facilities. Any such service provision using temporary or permanent structures should meet agreed standards (see WASH standard 1Health action standards and INEE Minimum Standards for Education: Preparedness, Response, Recovery).
  10. Livelihood support: The settling of disaster-affected populations should be informed by their pre-disaster economic activities and the opportunities within the post-disaster context (see Food security and nutrition assessment standards 1–2 and Core Standard 1). Land availability and access for cultivation and grazing, and access to market areas and local services for particular economic activities should be considered.