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Emergency Shelter: Principles and practice

Emergency Shelter: Principles and practice

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Published by Oxfam
As part of our humanitarian mandate, Oxfam initiates and supports emergency shelter interventions for people affected by disasters and conflicts. Our experience shows that the rapid distribution of shelter NFIs and shelter support for host families can help people meet their immediate needs for dignity, privacy and protection from adverse weather. This Technical Briefing Note outlines the different approaches and key principles to be considered when considering emergency shelter programmes in humanitarian responses.
As part of our humanitarian mandate, Oxfam initiates and supports emergency shelter interventions for people affected by disasters and conflicts. Our experience shows that the rapid distribution of shelter NFIs and shelter support for host families can help people meet their immediate needs for dignity, privacy and protection from adverse weather. This Technical Briefing Note outlines the different approaches and key principles to be considered when considering emergency shelter programmes in humanitarian responses.

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Published by: Oxfam on Apr 26, 2013
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OXFAM
 –
TBN
24
(Draft v2.1 - 15/04/2012)
OXFAM Technical Brief Emergency Shelter _ Principles & Practices
1
Emergency Shelter
Principles & Practice
 As part of our humanitarian mandate, Oxfam initiates and supports emergency shelter interventions forpeople affected by disasters and conflicts. Our experience shows that the rapid distribution of shelter NFIsand shelter support for host families can help people meet their immediate needs for dignity, privacy andprotection from adverse weather. This Technical Briefing Note outlines the different approaches and keyprinciples to be considered when considering emergency shelter programmes in humanitarian responses.
Oxfam & Emergency Shelter
In the aftermath of a natural disaster, or when armedconflict causes displacement from homes andcommunities,
Oxfam’s
humanitarian activities focus on:saving lives through ensuring safe water, sanitationand public health interventions (WASH support);supporting the reactivation of livelihoods and localmarkets (EFSL support); andadvocacy and campaigning on humanitarian relief issues (such as access, accountability; protection).In order for Oxfam to deliver these relief activities,affected populations must first be temporarily shelteredin locations where they feel safe (or safer). While mostpeople prefer to stay in or near their original dwellings, aconflict or disaster may force people to relocate anumber of times before achieving durable sheltersolutions. Providing rapid and appropriate emergencyshelter support in acceptable settlements can:help meet immediate critical survival needs;provide a physical and social space for WASH andEFSL activities to take place; andaid in post-emergency shelter construction (throughthe provision of useful materials and tools).
Oxfam
’ 
s Shelter Policy
Oxfam GB
’s Shelter Policy of 2006
recognizes therole of supporting emergency shelter in helping usdeliver our humanitarian mandate. This policy
confirms our organizational commitment “
to
maintain our expertise and play an active role” in
emergency shelter.Permanent housing and/or the construction of transitional shelters requires extensive resources intime and funding. It also requires specialisttechnical and dedicated management support. Forthese reasons, projects of this type are not
considered as part of Oxfam’s
humanitarianexpertise.
Who’s Responsible?
 
 Although emergency shelter assistance is not strictly a
technical concern, Oxfam’s WASH engineers are typically
tasked with ensuring that emergency shelter needs areincluded during initial assessments. If assessmentsindicate that there are unmet needs for emergencyshelter, it is expect that Oxfam engineers will take thelead on identifying appropriate interventions.For interventions that call for direct shelter NFIdistributions as complimentary assistance to our WASHprogrammes, Oxfam engineers are expected to providetechnical specifications and initiate requisitionproceedings with logistics personnel. Beneficiaryidentification and distribution of shelter NFIs is typicallyled by PHP or ESFL teams, or specialized distributionteams. Like all other Oxfam programmes, monitoring of the use of these materials and the impact of ourinterventions remains the responsibility of all Oxfam staff.-×-For
partner led distributions, Oxfam’s engineers will be
involved in encouraging quality standards forprocurement of shelter NFI materials. In some cases,
Oxfam’s engineers will be tasked with providing technical
oversight for the appropriate use of these materials by
beneficiaries. As with all of Oxfam’s humanitarian
programmes where partners are involved, capacitybuilding approaches (vs. direct project supervision)should be used.-×-Large scale emergencies will likely require specializedNFI distribution staff and Emergency Shelter ProjectCoordinators. To avoid programme delays due torecruitment difficulties, early identification of the need forShelter NFI distribution teams should be highlighted.-×- As an active partner in the IASC Emergency ShelterCluster, Oxfam is committed to the goal of a rapid andcoordinated humanitarian response to meet 100% of theemergency shelter needs of affected communities. While
Oxfam’s attendance at the Emergency Shelter Cluster
meeting is not mandatory, Oxfam must report ouremergency shelter distribution plans to the InformationManagement sub-group of local Shelter Cluster.
 
OXFAM
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OXFAM Technical Brief Emergency Shelter _ Principles & Practices
2
Seven Key Principles of Emergency Shelter
1.
 
The first several weeks after a disaster or conflictare the most critical in addressing emergency shelterneeds. After this, beneficiary priorities tend to shifttowards more durable shelter solutions. To help ensuremaximum impact of relief operations,
emergencyshelter distributions should take place withinthe first 45 days of the response
.2.
 
Sphere shelter and settlement standardsmust be used
as a guide for all emergency shelterdistributions. Whenever possible, the minimumguidance of 3.5 m3 of covered space per person shouldbe adhered to. To achieve this, two pieces of 6m by4m sheets should be distributed to each family of 4 ormore persons (see illustration below)3.
 
 All reinforced plastic sheeting
used foremergency shelter
must adhere to Oxfamspecifications,
which have been widely promoted andaccepted by the international humanitarian community.4.
 
The two non negotiable items to be included inemergency shelter kits should be
two (2) pieces of reinforced plastic sheeting or tarpaulins, andsufficient rope or other fasteners
. In arid lands orwhere deforestation might take place, distributionsshould also consider the addition of bamboo or timberpoles.5.
 
 Attempting to reach higher numbers of beneficiariesby distributing one sheet of plastic per family ratherthan two should be avoided.
Follow-up distributionsoften occur too late to have the desired impact
on effectively addressing emergency shelter needs.6.
 
People displaced by disasters and conflicts areresourceful and competent, and are often capable of erecting an adequate emergency shelter withouttechnical support.
 Avoid efforts to design new orimproved emergency shelters
using plasticsheeting or tarpaulins and bamboo, plastic or timberpoles. If assessments indicate that there is need forself supporting emergency shelters, provide tents.7.
 
Shelter needs and use change over time. Whileplastic sheeting or tents may not be the most desirableoption,
Oxfam
’s advocacy and coordination with
others
is often the most effective means of supportingmore durable shelter solutions.
Shelter NFIs
 
Emergency shelter materials were included in the firstOxfam humanitarian programme in 1942, when blanketswere included in the food assistance packages shipped to
Greece during a naval blockade. Since then, Oxfam’s
emergency response experiences have shown us that therapid distribution of 
shelter NFIs 
can help people meettheir immediate need for dignity, privacy and protectionfrom the elements.Typical
shelter NFIs 
include:
 
plastic sheeting or tarpaulins (minimum 2 perfamily);
 
twisted or braided rope from natural or syntheticfibres;
 
timber, bamboo, aluminium or brush poles foremergency dwelling superstructure;
 
single family tents made of cotton or syntheticmaterials;
 
blankets, ground mats and/or mattresses;
 
locally procured, sustainably harvested materialssuch as bamboo or palm frond mats;
 
shading materials made of cotton, synthetic ornatural fibres woven into mesh or sheets;
 
manufactured roofing sheets made from corrugatedgalvanized iron (CGI), PVC, or bitumen coatedfibres;
 
fastening materials such as nails, roofing bolts orscrews, or cable ties;
 
hand tools such as hammers, saws, pliers, metalcutters, measuring tapes; shovels, etc.;
 
solar lamps; stoves (for cooking/heating); cookingpots and house wares. As their primary use is for vector control measures,Oxfam does NOT consider the following items as shelterNFIs:×
 
insecticide treated plastic sheeting;×
 
bed nets.If assessments indicate high risks and unmet needs for
the need for these items, Oxfam’s Public Health
Promotion team will take the lead on addressing theseconcerns.
Emergency Shelter Upgrades
In situations of prolonged displacements, it may benecessary to provide additional materials or technicalassistance to help people upgrade or improve theiremergency shelters. Before initiating upgradingactivities, follow-up assessments should be done withthe views of beneficiaries, landowners, localauthorities, camp management, and the sheltercluster taken into consideration.While targeting vulnerable people for shelterupgrading activities makes sense from a humanitarianprogramming perspective, this can create conflict incommunities and lead to resentments towards thosewho receive assistance. Local partners may be bestplaced to advise on how these risks can be mitigated.
 
OXFAM
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OXFAM Technical Brief Emergency Shelter _ Principles & Practices
3
Emergency Shelter Practices for Different Contexts
Camps 
 
In many planned or government-authorizeddisplacement camps, other agencies are likely to betterpositioned than Oxfam to ensure that residents areadequately sheltered. The most appropriate emergencyshelter intervention that Oxfam can provide in thesesituations is often that of 
complimentary support 
, whereOxfam supplements the distribution of tents or plasticsheeting of other agencies. High levels of coordinationare essential to ensure that minimum standards areadhered to and that there is sufficient surplus stock tosupport any influx of new refugees/IDPs. As
self-settled camps 
are often considered illegal, anyplans for providing emergency shelter assistance mustfirst be approved by the relevant authorities. Distributionof emergency shelter materials should take into accountthe overcrowded conditions and the transient nature of these camps. In most cases, plastic sheeting and rope ismore preferable than tents as these materials are theyare generally considered more a temporary solution.
Floods 
 
In general, people displaced by heavy rainsand floods are keen to return to their homes as soon aspossible. Any plans for emergency shelter assistancemust therefore recognize that people might have moved
away during the time it takes for Oxfam’s material
procurement processes to take place. To avoid this,logistics teams should be involved as soon as possible inthe assessment phase to advise on realistic lead times forprocurement.Distribution of emergency shelter materials to familieswho are returning to their places of origins can helpdecongest crowded camps or collective centres andsupport the early recovery efforts of affected populations.Whether distributed to recently displaced or returningpeoples, it is of critical importance that each familyreceive two (2) plastic sheets or tarpaulins as rains maycontinue.
Cyclones / Hurricanes 
 
The hazards of highwinds and heavy rains that characterize cyclones andhurricanes pose distinct challenges to emergency shelterassistance. Contingency plans should focus on ensuringthat early warning systems are robust, and that the mostvulnerable families have access to cyclone shelters. As the most common cyclone / hurricane damages tobuildings is damaged roofs, consideration should be givento stockpiling CGI roofing sheets and fasteners tofacilitate a quick distribution. All CGI distributions shouldbe accompanied by information, education andcommunication (IEC) materials that illustraterecommended construction practices for areas affectedby high winds.
Earthquakes 
 
Experience shows that peopleaffected by earthquakes prefer to stay at or near theirdamaged homes, rather than go into camps or collectivecentres. The versatility of plastic sheeting or tarpaulinsmakes it the standard material of choice for emergencyshelter support. As earthquake affected people are oftenable to salvage building materials from their houses,there is not generally a need to include timber or bamboopoles in distribution.Corrugated galvanized iron (CGI) sheets are also of great utility for assisting beneficiaries in their rebuildingof their earthquake damaged homes. If budgets arerobust enough to consider CGI sheets as part of emergency shelter assistance, fastening devices such ascup headed nails or screws should be included. It mayalso be necessary to consider providing some timber forroofing superstructures.In urban areas where there are a large number of renters or informal settlements, earthquake affectedpeople may not have many opportunities or incentives torebuild (e.g., Haiti earthquake 2010). While the mosteffective forms of emergency shelter assistance in thesesituations is likely to be plastic sheeting, advocacy effortsshould focus on addressing the challenges that must beovercome before more durable shelter solutions can beconsidered.
Hot / Arid Climates 
 
 As plastic sheeting canmake interior spaces very hot in hot or arid climates,emergency shelters must be well ventilated and shadedwhenever possible. The use of shading materials overroofs or walls should be considered. In many tropicalclimates, grass or palm thatch may be available for useas a shading material for roofs, walls or fences.Rolls of woven plastic shade netting made of polypropylene or polyethylene is another cost effectiveand highly suitable form of shading. Advantages includeease of use and reduced risk of deforestation orenvironmental damages. There may be difficulties infinding sufficient local suppliers for woven plastic shadenetting to meet the humanitarian demand, however.
Cold Climates 
 
While plastic sheeting or tents canprovide a basic level of protection againstwind/rain/snow, displaced people in cold climates needadditional forms of emergency shelter support. Warmclothing, blankets, and elevated bedding (including cotsand mattresses) are essential items that Oxfam or otheragencies must ensure are available in sufficient quantitiesfor all family members.Stoves and fuel for heating and cooking may also berequired. To avoid fire risks, stove should be placed on asand or stone platform away from walls and bedding.

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