Refugees participate in roof thatching. Shelters in Tierkidi camp, Gambella. Photo Credit: NRC/Emebet Abdissa
Read caption Refugees participate in roof thatching in Tierkidi camp in the Gambela region of Ethiopia. Photo: NRC/Emebet Abdissa


Published 22. May 2016
A home away from home.

For a family forced to flee, having a safe roof overhead is an urgent need. In an emergency, NRC provides them with physical safety, protecting their belongings, their privacy and their dignity.

What is shelter for displaced people?

Shelter is essential for the physical protection and privacy of people affected by displacement.

To build shelters with a displaced community is a complex task. It involves a range of social, cultural and economic considerations. But a sound shelter can have great effect. It allows people to lead their lives in a safe, supportive and culturally appropriate setting.

In a community, a school, a doctor's office, markets, latrines or community centres can make a real difference for people forced to flee their homes.

NRC's shelter activities meet both their physical and social needs.

People reached in 2015



shelters were built or rehabilitated



schools were built or rehabiliated



people received our shelter services

After I built my shelter, people knew me here, and they helped me too. I feel very secure nowadays. I think my shelter has granted me an identity in the society. Now, people can trust me and provide me with job opportunities.”
Razia, 24-year old widow and mother of 3, displaced in Kabul.

Our shelter work

In acute emergencies, NRC plans and prepares camps and settlements, constructs spaces for schools and communal infrastructure, and distributes household items.

NRC's teams work on housing, schools and community spaces. We build and repair buildings, so that homes, schools and recreation centres are accessible and durable. We provide residents with shelter materials or cash grants to purchase them, and give training sessions in maintenance to promote self-reliance and strengthen local capacity. In urban areas, we work with landlords to ensure that apartments rented to refugees meet basic living standards.

Our shelter experts always consult and coordinate with the displaced community as well as partners and local authorities. To find sustainable solutions, we always analyse needs and adapt our assistance to the context. This way, displaced people receive the quality support they deserve, in which the design and functionality of the shelter is adjusted according to social norms, climate, age, gender and disability.

Last year, our shelter projects supported more than 800,000 people.

We collaborate with other NRC teams to enable displaced persons to access social services and livelihood options. We coordinate our work with the NRC WASH teams, building facilities such as latrines. We also collaborate with NRC's experts on information, counselling and legal assistance (ICLA)  so that leases and tenant agreements don’t take advantage of displaced people.  

Equal opportunities for women

Often, a woman is the head of her family’s household. She may find it challenging to find a safe and lockable shelter for her family.  

At NRC, we want women to have equal land and shelter opportunities. Our shelter teams prioritise reaching women. In Afghanistan, our all-female shelter team seeks out and empowers displaced women in female or widow-headed households in need of humanitarian assistance. 

We’re expanding the all-female team concept into other countries, so more displaced women can have a safe space to call their own.