Coordinating shelter activities

Humanitarian reform and the cluster approach

In 2005 the leading international humanitarian organisations (United Nations agencies, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and non-governmental organizations) recognized that disaster response operations could be improved through clearer allocation of responsibilities as well as through better preparedness and predictability.

As a result, specific humanitarian agencies agreed to lead particular areas or “clusters” of activity such as shelter and health and to coordinate with other agencies in support of the authorities in disaster affected countries. In 2006, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) agreed to take on the responsibility of convening the shelter cluster after natural disasters.

Improving preparedness and predictability in shelter disaster response
At the global level, the IFRC convenes humanitarian shelter agencies to improve the provision of adequate shelter to households that have been affected by natural disasters. Specifically the IFRC prioritises

  • the training of personnel for coordination and technical support roles.
  • the development of common guidelines and manuals information sharing on the pre-positioning of emergency shelter items such as tents and tool kits.

At the country level, the IFRC convenes humanitarian shelter agencies in hazard-prone counties to support governments to develop disaster contingency plans and preparedness activities.

Coordinating the humanitarian shelter response after natural disasters
Following a natural disaster, and only when requested by the host government or humanitarian partner agencies, the IFRC provides support by coordinating the humanitarian shelter response. This can include convening the humanitarian shelter agencies to coordinate available resources, advocating for additional resources if required, and ensuring appropriate shelter assistance can be provided to affected households in accordance with agreed standards.

Interagency collaboration and partnership

Although the IFRC has leadership responsibilities for the shelter cluster in preparing for and responding to natural disasters, all activities are identified and undertaken with partner agencies and other organizations. At both global and country level, this includes United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations, as well as research institutes, universities and the private sector where appropriate.