Why is shelter and settlements assistance important?
Shelter and settlements assistance is the foundation of humanitarian response, crucial for rebuilding communities and family life. When people are forced to flee from their homes, shelter and settlements assistance aims to support them at every stage: at the onset of the crisis; while they are displaced; and as they recover and re-establish a sense of home and community. Shelter and settlements assistance can be both lifesaving and life-enabling.
The primary objectives of shelter and settlements assistance are to safeguard the health, security, privacy and dignity of families and communities affected by crises. Beyond lifesaving, shelter and settlements assistance is fundamental in rebuilding the psychological, social, livelihood and physical components of life – in short, all the aspects necessary for people to move on from survival to being able to effectively exercise their rights and fulfill their potential.
Shelter and settlements assistance provides:⁷
i. a physical dwelling that protects the health, security, privacy and dignity of families and is designed to bring communities together. It provides protection against threats – including those associated with gender-based violence (GBV), theft, climate and disease.
ii. a stable location, and an ‘address’ where other services can be accessed including healthcare, education, nutrition and safe and dignified water and sanitation facilities. Essential to this stability is a strong sense of secure tenure – that the occupant’s rights to live in a place will not be infringed, encroached, nor arbitrarily extinguished by another actor. In some cases, a dwelling can be a valuable asset that can be the beginning of a bigger investment. It provides a place to re-start livelihoods and economic recovery.
iii. a sense of identity, a place to gather belongings, family and community, a neighborhood to belong to, a place in which one can consider the past and rebuild a sense of future.⁸
The phrase “shelter and settlements” is used because it is not possible to talk about individual dwellings without consideration of the place and context in which they are located (see Message G.).