The right to shelter

The right to shelter was acknowledged in 1981 when UNHCR’ s Executiv e Committee produced a set of internationally recognized basic standards of treatment applicable in refugee emergencies. Amongst many other standards, it clearly states that “refugees and asylumseekers should receive all necessary assistance and be provided with the basic necessities of life including food, shelter and basic sanitary and health facilities.”

Shelter is a critical fact or affecting survival in the initial stages of a disaster . Beyond survival, shelter is necessary to provide security , personal safety and protection from the climate and to promote resistance to ill health and disease. It is also important for human dignity, to sustain family and community life and to enable affected populations to recover from the impact of disaster.

A shelter is defined as a habitable covered living space providing a secure and healthy living environment with privacy and dignity . Refugees and others of concern to UNHCR have the right to adequate shelter in order to benefit from protection from the elements, space to live and store belongings as well as privacy, comfort and emotional support.

Shelter should be adapted according to the geographical context, the climate, the cultural practice and habits, the local availability of skills as well as accessibility to adequate construction materials in any given country.

The need for shelter

Worldwide there is:

  • 25.4 million refugees
  • 40 million internally displaced people
  • 3.1 million asylumseekers

These numbers are forecasted to increase substantially due to population growth in Africa, with Europe to feel most of the impact. There is a high level of interest within the EU to combat this situation by trying to increase the security and decrease the poverty in Africa.

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