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Shelter: more than just a roof

In emergency situations, shelter is of vital importance for those who have been directly impacted by conflict or natural disaster. Without a roof over their heads, there will be no family life, no opportunity for children to learn or play, no sense of security, and no place to rest.

Kids in Iraq in front of their temporary shelter
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Conflict and climate change

Displacement grows rapidly

In our world, forced displacement has grown rapidly over the last decade. Many people lose their homes and livelihoods as a result of conflict, natural disasters or climate change. The need for shelter interventions has increased rapidly. ZOA’s capacity to respond is constantly upgraded and funds are used more effectively to provide greater impact for the growing number of those in need of shelter. 

Shelter during relief and recovery phase

Immediately after a disaster, ZOA focuses on shelter in emergency situations when beneficiaries need a roof for protection. Acute shelter needs will be addressed by the provision of temporary shelters in the form of tents, tarpaulins and wooden structures or the upgrading of temporary facilities such as schools, churches, clinics and other community structures.

In the recovery phase, there is often a need for transitional shelter that provides more protection from the elements as well as privacy and safety. The design of these transitional shelters made by ZOA are locally appropriate in terms of materials used and capacity to protect people. Where possible, ZOA also strives to make the design either re-usable or expandable, providing the possibility to turn transitional shelter into permanent housing over time. ZOA can also support in the renovation or rehabilitation of damaged houses. 

A mason at work
Willem van Burgsteden

Willem van Burgsteden, Shelter Specialist

ZOA’s shelter interventions provide a safe space where families start rebuilding their lives. By using the 'building back better' principle, displaced families regain their dignity and boost their self-reliance.

Security and dignity

A place to feel safe

Shelter is far more than a roof over your head. Shelter and settlements are key components of post-disaster recovery of communities. They provide protection, security and dignity as well as recovery of economic well-being and secure livelihoods for the community.

Integrated approach

ZOA’s approach in shelter is holistic and based on the following themes:

  • We focus on the interest and protection of the people involved. This means that the support is tailored to the needs of women, girls, boys and men and that the affected population is involved in decision-making and implementation.
  • We enable households to recover themselves and support them to work towards more sustainable outcomes and processes. In this way, we contribute to a lasting post-emergency recovery.
  • We also address related issues such as water and sanitation, fuel for cooking and heating, household utensils, waste management and settlement planning.
  • We believe that shelter goes beyond the level of the family. Communal facilities such as schools, play areas and health clinics must be available to affected people. 

ZOA's shelter assistance is flexible and adjusted to the context. The type of damage caused by the disaster will be assessed as well as activities required to repair or replace existing or damaged homes and structures. Additional important factors are social and climatic conditions and the scale of the disaster. Furthermore, it is important to be conflict sensitive in terms of support given so that distribution or construction activities are not increasing the existing conflict or context situation.

Building back better, with local materials

ZOA's assistance in emergencies and recovery-phase aid ranges from tents, tools and materials to cash assistance for either the affected people or their host families. Preferably, shelters are made with locally available construction materials using traditional building techniques. This way, the houses can be easily improved and repaired by beneficiaries themselves. Furthermore, the houses are often better adapted to  local climatological conditions and its construction benefits the local economy.

After natural disasters, ZOA works with authorities and communities to identify shelter risks and vulnerabilities with the goal of preparing for a future potential disaster and introduce mitigating measures to minimize the impact. This disaster risk reduction approach increases the ability of communities to “ build back better”. It introduces technologies such as earthquake resistant houses and improved awareness of the local risks and hazards.