Shelter and settlements

Shelter and settlements programming is a vital part of humanitarian assistance delivered by the IFRC and our National Societies. It is important not only in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, but in helping to restore communities’ dignity and build their resilience to future shocks and hazards.

About shelter and settlements

Shelter is a process, not just a product. It goes beyond simply providing tools and tents to help people cope in the short-term, and involves enabling communities to improve their homes over time so they are better protected should another disaster occur.

The immediate shelter assistance we provide in an emergency varies depending on people’s needs and can include:

  • Distributing emergency shelter and household items to repair damaged houses or to build temporary shelters
  • Improving living conditions in collective shelters and public buildings
  • Cash assistance so people can buy materials, hire labour or pay their rent and utilities—provided to affected families and to the communities hosting them
  • Providing local construction specialists to advise on safe building techniques

Shelter and settlements in the immediate phase after a disaster or crisis evolve into homes and communities as people recover and rebuild their lives.

In the longer-term, we support Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to reduce communities’ risks through safer construction practices and sustainable construction of human settlements before and after disasters. This is especially important in light of increased risks due to climate change and rapid, unplanned urbanization.

Our shelter commitment


We are committed to supporting better preparedness in emergency shelter at a global level


We are committed to coordinating the provision of emergency shelter assistance at country level after a disaster


We are committed to increasing the operational capacity of our National Societies in emergency shelter

Global Shelter Cluster

The IFRC has convened the Global Shelter Cluster since 2006.

‘Clusters’ are specific areas of humanitarian activity, such as shelter and health, that are led by particular agencies or NGOs. They are designated by the United Nations’ Inter-Agency Standing Committee, with cluster leads taking on clear responsibilities for coordinating organizations during emergency response.

At the global level, this involves bringing together humanitarian shelter agencies to improve the provision of adequate shelter to people affected by disasters. This includes training of personnel for coordination and technical support, as well as developing common guidelines and manuals for shelter best practice and standards.

At the country level, we convene humanitarian shelter agencies to help governments develop good disaster contingency plans and preparedness activities. When disaster strikes, and when requested by a host government, we coordinate the shelter response between agencies. This includes resource coordination, advocating for greater resources if needed, and ensuring shelter assistance meets the Cluster’s agreed standards.

Find out more on the Global Shelter Cluster website or by following @ShelterCluster on Twitter

Professional postgraduate courses in shelter

The IFRC, in partnership with Oxford Brookes University, offers two master level short courses in shelter, suitable for humanitarian professionals with experience in emergency shelter response. Both courses are delivered by blended learning, with 5 weeks of online study followed by 6 days of face-to-face teaching.

Shelter and Settlements in Emergencies 

This course aims to equip participants with the skills required to plan a shelter response in a humanitarian crisis after disasters. It will provide participants with an overview of shelter and settlement in emergencies, their relevance in humanitarian programmes and an understanding of the principles and practice of the humanitarian shelter response. 

The application window is open until 1 April 2024 for the first cohort of the year. If interested, please submit your application here.

Humanitarian Shelter Coordination

This course aims to equip participants with the skills required to coordinate a shelter response in a humanitarian crisis caused by a disaster, a conflict or a combination of both. It will provide participants with an overview of the humanitarian reform process and the transformative agenda, the interagency cluster approach, the role of the Shelter Cluster and the principles and practice of humanitarian shelter coordination.

The application window is open until 28 February 2024 for the first cohort of the year. If interested, please submit your application here.

For more information or enquiries about either of the above courses, please contact [email protected]

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Get in touch

For more information about the IFRC’s work in shelter, please contact [email protected]

National Societies and volunteers can also find more resources related to shelter on Fednet.