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European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations
© European Union, 2021
Shelter and settlements


What is it?

Shelter is a basic human need crucial for survival in cases of natural hazards or conflict. It 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 shelter and settlements are increasing. The number of internally displaced people across the globe reached 55 million by the end of 2020, with 40.5 million new displacements, the highest annual figure recorded in a decade.

As of 31 December 2020, worldwide, there were more than double internally displaced people than refugees. Among internally displaced people, 48 million fled conflict and violence, and 7 million from disasters, but these figures could be a significant underestimate of the current situation.

Humanitarian organisations help affected communities through immediate shelter response to a disaster or in anticipation of one. They provide technical support and capacity building, financial assistance (including cash assistance and rental support) and building supplies.

Basic transitional shelter often remains people's only home for many years. These structures usually serve as a foundation for future expanded and reinforced housing.

Building back safer is essential for resilience. In disaster-prone countries, qualified technical support should be linked to capacity building of the local construction industry.

Reliable shelter enforces communities’ resilience and reduces their vulnerability. Shelter is often considered the most important asset in securing their means to earn a living.

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. This goes along with other complementary ways, such as funding field partners and operations led by the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

Civil protection assistance may take the form of in-kind help. We also deploy specialised response teams and experts in the immediate aftermath of a disaster to complement humanitarian responses.

Building on best practices in the sector, the European Commission published the Humanitarian Shelter and Settlements Guidelines in 2017. The aim is 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 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 EU also supports the Global Shelter Cluster, a coordination mechanism supporting people affected by natural hazards and internally displaced people affected by conflict. They receive the means to live in safe, dignified and appropriate shelter.

Last updated: 24/01/2022
Picture: © European Union, 2021

Facts & figures

55 million internally displaced people across the world at the end of 2020, of which:

48 million people internally displaced as a result of conflict and violence in 59 countries 

7 million people internally displaced by disasters across 104 countries 

(IDMC Global Report on Internal Displacement 2021)

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