How we do shelter

'Sheltering’ is a process – not just a ‘product’

Meeting shelter needs after disasters should be seen as a process of ‘sheltering’ done by affected households with different materials, technical, financial and social assistance.

This assistance provided in the immediate aftermath of disaster can include:

  • the distribution of tents or materials and tool kits to repair damaged houses or to build temporary/transitional/core shelters
  • the improvement of living conditions in collective shelters and public buildings.
  • the provision of cash to buy materials, hire labour or pay for rents. This assistance can be provided either to the affected families or to those hosting them.
  • the provision of local construction specialists to advise on safe building techniques.
  • A flexible combination of the above solutions, based on assessed needs and preferences.

The different needs of affected households for safety, privacy, protection from the climate and maintaining their livelihoods should be addressed appropriate to the context and available resources.

Shelter solutions must also enable households to improve their homes over time as resources and opportunities permit. Therefore unflexible solutions that do not lend themselves to incremental change over time should be avoided if and where possible. Sheltering goes beyond the immediate provision of basic shelter solutions and is closely associated with longer-term reconstruction as well as with assisting individuals, families and communities to re-establish themselves and enable a return of individual dignity.

Shelter as part of disaster management

All shelter activities of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) are informed by the ongoing work in relief, recovery, disaster preparedness, water and sanitation, logistics and procurement, and other related disciplines.

Disasters provide an entry point to reduce future shelter risks and vulnerabilities, and build resilient communities. Disasters can also make resources and institutional support available to address underlying causes. For the IFRC, the provision of shelter assistance after a disaster is an opportunity to ensure that the shelter risks of affected households are reduced through programming and awareness-raising. This requires rethinking emergency response to include consideration of broader longer term shelter and settlement issues including housing land and property rights, adaptation to climate change, sustainability and urbanisation.

Local and global capacities

The IFRC is one of the leading providers of relief assistance. At country level, many national Red Cross Red Crescent societies are the primary emergency shelter agency for their governments, and have significant expertise and resources at national and community level. In addition, these National Societies have a leading role in informing policy and strategies in shelter preparedness and response.

At the global level, the IFRC is actively involved in leading global initiatives on risk reduction, climate change, urbanization and migration. This provides the opportunity to ensure that shelter and settlement issues are addressed thoroughly. Due to the unique status of the international Red Cross Red Crescent Movement and its commitment to a leadership role in shelter, the IFRC can use its participation in key global platforms to promote the issue of humanitarian shelter, and its links to long-term development.

Partnerships and collaboration

As a membership organisation comprising 187 national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, the IFRC uses the considerable shelter experience, capacities and the resources of its members to support and implement its shelter-related activities. The IFRC is uniquely placed to collaborate with leading humanitarian agencies including the United Nations and non-governmental organizations, relevant research institutes and academic institutions. Links have also been established with the private sector, to collaborate on technical innovation in shelter and the provision of skilled personnel to support shelter and construction activities.