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European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations
Shelter and settlements


What is it?

Shelter is a basic human need crucial for survival in cases of natural hazards or conflict. Shelter provides security, personal safety and protection from the weather, and prevents ill health and disease. Adequate housing provides people with dignity and the opportunity to lead a normal life. Shelter plays an essential role in reducing vulnerability and building resilience. Settlements are not simply safe physical spaces, but also socially acceptable and socioeconomically viable living environments.

Why is this important?

Needs for humanitarian shelter and settlements are increasing. In 2019, conflict and violence triggered 8.5 million new displacements in 50 countries, whereas around 1,900 natural hazards provoked 24.9 million new displacements across 140 countries and territories – the highest figure registered since 2012 and 3 times the number of displacements caused by conflict and violence

Humanitarian organisations help affected communities through technical support and capacity building, financial assistance (including cash-based assistance and rental support), and the provision of building materials and tools.

Basic and fragile transitional shelter often remains the only home for many years. These structures usually serve as a foundation for future housing, being expanded and reinforced. It is crucial that proper materials are provided and correct building methods used from the outset. Building back safer is essential to build on resilience, especially in disaster-prone countries. Therefore, qualified technical support should be linked to tailored capacity building of the local construction industry.

Reliable shelter enforces communities’ resilience and reduces their vulnerability to future disasters. Shelter is often considered as the most important asset stressing its importance in securing livelihoods.

How are we helping?

The EU allocates between 7% and 20% of its Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid annual funding for Shelter and Settlements related humanitarian assistance along with 2 complementary ways: through the financing of humanitarian partners and the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. Civil protection assistance may take the form of in-kind help or the deployment of specialised response teams and experts in the immediate aftermath of a disaster.

Building on best practices in the sector, the European Union published a set of Humanitarian Shelter and Settlements Guidelines in 2017 to ensure that vulnerable people’s shelter needs are met in an optimal and efficient way. These guidelines cover the EU’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid shelter policy in both natural hazard and conflict settings.

The EU provides humanitarian shelter and settlements support as an immediate response to, or in anticipation of, a disaster. Due to the importance of adequate housing, the EU may also decide to support shelter in the recovery phase, if the reconstruction or maintenance of shelter and settlements addresses the health, protection or livelihood needs of the affected population.

The European Union also supports the Global Shelter Cluster, an Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) coordination mechanism that supports people affected by natural hazards and internally displaced people affected by conflict with the means to live in safe, dignified and appropriate shelter.

Last updated: 05/10/2020

Facts & figures

50.8 million internally displaced people across the world at the end of 2019:

  • 45.7 million as a result of conflict and violence
  • 5.1 million as a result of disasters

33.4 million new internal displacements triggered by conflict and disasters across 145 countries and territories in 2019

(IDMC Global Report on Internal Displacement 2020)