Read caption A NRC staff member works alongside the indigenous Jiw community in the Colombian municipality of Puerto Concordia to build homes and community structures. After years of displacement, they have returned to their ancestral land. Photo: Edwin Tinjacá/NRC

Shelter and settlements

Access to shelter is essential for one’s dignity, privacy, health, and physical and social protection. It is a universal human right captured within the right to adequate housing.

People reached in 2018

A total of


people benefitted from our shelter and settlements work

Shelter solutions do not exist in isolation, and must be viewed through larger settlement considerations. When addressed in a timely and holistic manner, shelter interventions save lives and protect rights, meeting both immediate needs and promoting durable solutions. Adequate shelter is instrumental in reinforcing positive coping mechanisms and social structures, while also facilitating access to livelihoods opportunities and essential services in a broader settlement environment.

Our expertise in shelter and settlements

Our shelter and settlements programmes facilitate access to adequate shelter solutions for affected populations across all phases of displacement. This ranges from rapidly deployable emergency shelter solutions that save lives, to supporting early recovery and promoting durable solutions. We work with our beneficiaries to identify and develop solutions that meet their needs, benefit local suppliers, and use local labour.

Our experts consider different processes when developing NRC shelter and settlements programmes. These processes could be encouraging self-reliance to improve and maintain shelter solutions, maximising tenure security for men and women, and ensuring that short-term assistance is designed to take longer horizons into account. We also make assessments at the product level. This could be ensuring that shelter solutions are safe, secure and designed to resist natural and operational hazards. It could also entail ensuring that solutions meet local and international consensus-based standards. Our product considerations should also work to ensure accessibility for people with specific needs, and ensure that solutions provide adequate space, lighting, thermal comfort and ventilation.

NRC shelter and settlements programmes work across different settlement types, be they grouped (collective centres, self-settled camps and planned camps) or dispersed (host families, urban self-settlement and rural self-settlement). We work with different tenancy types, including owner, occupier, tenant and squatter. Whether in an acute or chronic emergency, or in support of durable solutions, our shelter programmes continuously adapt to changing needs of each shifting environment. Shelter programmes may facilitate access to existing shelter solutions, or develop and provide improved shelter solutions.

Our shelter and settlements programming focuses on five thematic areas. Each uses various inputs (cash-based, in-kind or information), which in turn support self-building or access to existing housing. They also help us hire contractors, directly distribute goods and/or services and work through partners.

The five areas are:

  • individual and collective housing solutions
  • schools and educational buildings
  • planning and implementation of planned camps for displaced populations
  • social and technical infrastructure for communities affected by displacement
  • essential household items, whether through in-kind or cash-based