Shelter and Settlements: Post-Disaster Response in Urban Environments  

panelistsPHOTO: Panelists from the Shelter and Settlements: Post-Disaster Response in Urban Environments Workshop. From left to right: Mario Flores, Ann Lee, Dr. Reinhard Goethert, Dr. Elizabeth Hausler and Charles Setchell.

CHF International hosted a panel on the topic of  Shelter and Settlements: Post-Disaster Response in Urban Environments at 2012 InterAction Forum on May 2nd, 2012. Three disasters of 2011 (earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand; earthquake/tsunami in Sendai, Japan; and flooding in Bangkok) highlights a growing trend in humanitarian response: the increasing rate at which humanitarian responders are being called to mount relief operations in complex urban contexts. The panel brought together an  experienced mix of professionals from the donor community, implementing NGOs and academia to share learning that is taking place within the different circles. They reviewed the methodology, costs and lessons learned in emergency response programs that take place within an urban context following disaster. Focusing on the resettlement of the displaced, the rebuilding of livelihoods and the provision of shelter, the workshop provided insight into core components necessary for an integrated and community-based response. The presentations addressed factors regarding the methodology, financing, implementation, pit-falls and monitoring of economic recovery and shelter and settlement interventions. The panelists also shared tools and knowledge resources that can facilitate decision-making and inform response activities. For more information, please read the overview of the panel presentations below.

Rapidly growing, unregulated and under-serviced urban areas are high-risk locations that render the majority of urban dwellers vulnerable to a range of disasters and crises. As a result, it is far more challenging to implement post-disaster shelter response in an urban setting than a rural one. The scale, population density and concentrations of poor people living in hazard-prone slums and vulnerable lands means that responding to disasters in urban areas poses significant challenges to even large international humanitarian agencies, many of whom have their past experience rooted in disaster management in rural or low-density areas. At the same time,  public authorities in developing economies, first responders and community-based organizations typically lack the experience and resources to plan and mount a large-scale response.
 
Cities in the developing world are already grappling with increasing urbanization of poverty, growth of slums, high prices of urban land, environmental hazards stemming from population density and hazardous location or settlements/slums, social fragmentation (lack of community and inter-household mechanisms for social security, relative to those in rural areas), higher incidence of crime and violence, endemic socioeconomic vulnerability and political marginalization of the urban poor that diminishes their access to sustainable shelter solutions. These challenges are amplified when it comes to delivering post-disaster shelter solutions in urban areas.
 
Finally, the world is becoming increasingly urban with roughly 3.5 billion people living in urban areas. The rate of urbanization is disproportionately higher in resource constrained developing economies: in 1970s, 50% of urban residents lived in developing countries, whereas it is increased to 66% in 1990s, and is projected to be 80% by 2020. What is equally disconcerting is the growing urbanization of poverty, with an estimated billion-plus living in slums and more than 25% of the global urban population living on less than $1 a day.  Livelihoods’ patterns of urban-based populations are more dynamic, interconnected and inter-reliant than those found in rural areas. For this reason, focusing on the differences between urban-based economic recovery activities versus rural-based ones is beneficial for practitioners. The market-based livelihood of urban populations require a different approach to promote economic recovery. This backdrop of increasing vulnerability of urban centers and the unique challenges and opportunities that defines cities makes it imperative to continue a robust dialogue on appropriate disaster response strategies and shelter approaches. 
 

Overview of panel presentations:

Challenges/Impressions—Shelter and Settlements: Post-Disaster Response in Urban Environments
Dr. Reinhard Goethert, Director of Special Interest Group in Urban Settlement, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Drawing upon his extensive experience working in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, Burma, Puerto Rico, Chile, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Zambia, Ghana, Egypt, Syria, Ethiopia, Dr. Reinhardt explained how to apply the core principles of urban planning in the aftermath of a disaster to “build back better”.  He shared lessons learned and best practices for adapting planning approaches to urban realities to ensure rapid supply of low-cost shelters, linkages between community and metro level planning and the role of private sector in a post-disaster environment. He also shared tools and resources that can be adapted to ensure a planned approach that does not compromise the exigencies of a post-disaster environment.

Contact Dr. Reinhard Goethert at rkg@mit.edu

KATYE: Rebuilding the Neighborhood of Ravin Pintade (Haiti)
Ann Lee, Acting Country Director, Haiti, CHF International

Ms. Lee's overview of CHF’s KATYE project in Haiti explains the salience of an integrated approach to shelter and how to design and implement it post-disaster urban environments.  Funded by the OFDA, KATYE provides a blue print for an integrated approach to shelter solutions, focusing rubble management and community-driven spatial planning to decide on shelter sites, disaster risk reduction, and access to productive infrastructure to promote sustainable urban improvement. By sharing the program design, implementation process, associated challenges, opportunities and lessons learned, Ms. Lee demonstrated how KATYE's integrated approach can be adapted and applied in other disaster-affected urban areas.

Contact Ann Lee at alee@haiti.chfinternational.org

Harnessing the Power of “Local”: Strategies to Leverage Local Assets for Improving Disaster Resilience
Mario Flores, Director of Disaster Response Field Operations, Habitat for Humanity

Harnessing the Power of “Local” refers to the difficult to achieve, yet critical need for local engagement within the larger rubric of culturally-appropriate shelter interventions following disasters. Drawing on Habitat for Humanity’s post-disaster shelter programs, Mr. Flores explained how to quickly capture local technologies, knowledge, labor and procurement to inform shelter response in the midst of a chaotic post-disaster environment and emphasized how direct participation of affected population in the interventions contributes to building disaster reliance within affected communities.

Contact Mario Flores at mflores@habitat.org

Funding Reconstruction: Role of Finance in Post-Disaster Housing Reconstruction and Retrofitting
Dr. Elizabeth Hausler,Founder and CEO, Build Change

Dr. Hausler focused on the fiscal aspects of post-disaster shelter and settlement activities in urban areas. Drawing upon her recent research for USAID, she discussed the similarities and challenges of implementing post-disaster, homeowner-driven housing reconstruction programs.  She highlighted cost-effective mechanisms for developing post-disaster shelters including absorption of local trades people in seismic resistant constructions in Haiti and homeowner driven new housing initiative in Indonesia to highlight cost-effective innovations in reconstruction approaches
Contact Dr. Elizabeth Haussler at Elizabeth@buildchange.org

Two Ss and Three Rs: Genesis of USAID/OFDA Urban Shelter and Settlements Activities, and Re-conceiving the Road to Recovery in Urban Places
Charles (Chuck) A. Setchell, Senior  Advisor for Shelter, Settlements and Hazard Mitigation, Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance

Using a series of recent OFDA funded shelter programs, Mr. Setchell explained the key factors that informs OFDA’s decision to fund shelter oriented programs in post-disaster context, and how to re-think donor involvement to facilitate and mainstream context-driven and sustainable shelter programs. Highlighting the different operational models required by humanitarian organizations between urban and rural contexts, Setchell  underscored need to develop more context-driven approaches and tools to cope with urban disasters. He encouraged the humanitarian community to collectively increase skill-sets in urban planning and land-use mapping to ensure better response to urban disasters.

Contact Charles Setchell at csetchell@usaid.gov

Links to presentations: