Shelter and Health
Health and Shelter
A foundation of humanitarian Shelter and Settlement response is the desire to Build Back Better, and safer. In recent years, the need to define ‘better’ has been advocated within the sector, along with calls for more holistic shelter practices and a focus on the wider impacts of shelter. Health should be central to these debates. A healthier home is a better home. It promotes both physical and mental health.
The diagram below illustrates some of the ways in which people’s living environments can affect their physical and mental health.
In a rapidly changing global environment and in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, a focus on the connections between living conditions and health is ever more important. There is further elaboration of the need for more attention on the connections between living conditions, Shelter and Settlements responses and health in an article in the Shelter Projects 8th Edition entitled A Healthier Home is a Better Home.
The Shelter and Settlements sector should build on the increased awareness of the connections between housing and health brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic to forge a path towards programming that incorporates environmental health and addresses wider long-term wellbeing outcomes. Better understanding across sectors of the critical contribution of shelter to health, as well as safety, will also encourage stronger advocacy with donors. Shelter is often the first step in the process towards longer-term reconstruction and recovery; strategies that prioritise physical and mental health as an outcome of the sheltering process will not only contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals but help to bridge emergency response and longer-term recovery.
The connections between Shelter and Health were discussed in the 2021 GSC annual meeting in June, which included a panel discussion between Linda Doull (Global Health Cluster Coordinator), Monica Ramos (Global WaSH Cluster Coordinator), Cecilia Schmoelzer (independent Shelter consultant) and Pieter Ventevogel (Senior MHPSS officer, UNHCR). The panel discussed the possibility of developing joint operational guidance on environmental health, ideally with cross-cluster collaboration amongst the Shelter and Settlements, Health and WASH clusters. For this to happen, the formation of an inter-cluster technical working group focused on shelter and health, including WASH and MHPSS, were suggested to more effectively meet the needs of people affected by humanitarian crises. You can watch a recording of the meeting and see the presentations here.
CARE International UK has been awarded BHA funding through the GSC to advance research in shelter and health (April 2021 - September 2022), including an investigation into the formation of such a technical working group.
This web page aims to compile a collection of resources on shelter and health, which can inform policy and programming activities for a more integrated response. It will also be used to provide information on the work of the GSC and its partners on Shelter and Health, which constitutes one of the priority issues agreed by the GSC Strategic Advisory Group in its January 2021 retreat.
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The report of the first multi-sectoral Shelter and Health Learning Day in May 2020 was published in August 2020. Towards Healthier Homes in Humanitarian Settings brings together knowledge from different fields (development housing, health, WaSH and humanitarian shelter) on the connections between living conditions and health. You can download it here.
Mindful Sheltering is the report of the second Shelter and Health Learning event, which focussed on mental health. It was held in May 2021 and explored the connections between living conditions, mental health and Shelter and Settlements activities.
The Global Shelter Cluster COVID-19 response pages are here