Browse by Theme: Shelter

“Here, we have six seasons,” explained CARE’s Shelter Programme Manager, Shah Suja, as we raced along the road that connects Cox’s Bazar town to the refugee camps. Those “six seasons” bring searing heat, torrential rain, cyclones and storm surges – and with nearly a million refugees now living in this hilly and fragile terrain, with no immediate prospects of returning home and yet prohibited from using durable construction materials, creating and maintaining safe shelters is a real challenge.

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I’ve just returned from Bangladesh where I’ve been working with CARE’s shelter team to build ‘mid-term shelters’ for refugees who have fled from Myanmar. With the camps now in place for a year, what are the challenges of shifting from short-term emergency response to longer-term support – and how can we make sure that families and communities are at the centre of the process?

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We’ve just published a study of six agencies’ ‘support to shelter self-recovery’ programmes after the devastating Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the Philippines in late 2013. But what do we mean by self-recovery, and what does support to self-recovery look like?

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After disasters many international agencies, including CARE, undertake a whole range of projects to help affected people recover, including the construction of houses. These may be described as all sorts of things, including temporary shelter, transitional shelter, durable shelter, semi-permanent shelter, core houses or permanent houses. Which description is used often seems almost arbitrary, decided by a mixture of assumptions about people’s recovery, donor mandates and priorities, government policy and the level of expertise available in agencies. The description rarely matches reality.

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CARE has been working in India for over 65 years, and over that time a large part of its work has been responding to and supporting recovery from disasters. Many of these humanitarian projects have involved emergency shelter and housing reconstruction. Indeed, since 2000, CARE has built over 8,000 houses for some of the most vulnerable people who have lost their homes in disasters. A number of other agencies have undertaken similar construction programmes over the years. So what has the long-term effect of these projects been? Is the approach right, and given both the scale of typical disasters in India and the increasing quality and reach of government response, is the approach still relevant and appropriate?

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This is written five months after cyclone Pam caused so much devastation in the small Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. There has been time enough to reach a consensus on the most appropriate strategic approach to shelter recovery; but not yet enough time to evaluate the impact and long-term legacy. Decisions have been made and programmes are under way; but as for their effectiveness, the jury is still out. 

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The Philippines has been classified by the World Bank as a ‘lower-middle income’ economy. On the surface of things, the Philippines’ economic gains in recent years, and its growing numbers of new middle-class citizens, represent an optimistic narrative. But as the country still struggles to come to terms with the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, is this the real story on the ground?

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