In the disaster-affected areas, families generally utilise up to five types of temporary accommodation: prefabricated temporary houses, wooden temporary houses, paper temporary houses, winterised tents, and self-built shelters. Case studies by other researchers regarding different disasters showed that families also utilised mobile homes, public facilities retrofitted as lodging, homes of family or friends, and rented apartments (Johnson, 2007). Each type of accommodation differs in its physical character; in its effect in aiding the recovery of the population; and in its function as part of the stages of post-disaster housing. It is important to understand the differences between these types when planning a strategy for temporary accommodation because each type serves a slightly different function.
A three step accommodation strategy for those affected by a typical disaster could be implemented: beginning with the provision of temporary shelter, then temporary housing, and finally, permanent housing.
Planning considerations need to occur in the pre disaster preparedness period so as to determine a strategy for temporary accommodation before the disaster occurs. When and if the disaster occurs, the strategy must be reassessed to see if it fits the particular disaster situation. If it fits, the plan can be put into action. If it doesn’t fit, more planning is needed.
There are several planning considerations that governments, NGOs and aid organisations must take into account before deciding on the ‘best-fit’ strategy for temporary accommodation for a particular disaster, including: pre-disaster vulnerabilities; regional and local issues; climate; long-term effects of temporary accommodation; project procurement, planning and construction time; permanent reconstruction strategy and timing; and location.
Decision-makers may choose one, or a combination of several types of temporary accommodation, after making all the necessary planning considerations. Ideally, a strategy for temporary accommodation is designed before the disaster. Decision-makers would have already considered the options and issues for temporary accommodation and reconstruction, spending the appropriate amount of time to do this planning properly. Therefore, in the aftermath of the disaster, it is only necessary to assess the amount of damage and put the plan into action. If this pre-planning has not occurred before the disaster it is nonetheless imperative that decision-makers consider these issues before making and implementing their plan for temporary accommodation; of course it is much more difficult to do this after the disaster when the population is in urgent need of a housing solution. The decision to plan is best taken in advance of the disaster. A government may make the decision to plan or not to plan. If they decide not to plan, they will wait for the disaster to strike and then they will be forced to make quick decisions regarding a reconstruction strategy. If they make the ideal decision to plan in advance, they must consider the various types of temporary accommodation available in conjunction with the other planning variables. These variables are revisited until a feasible strategy can be deduced. Even in the ideal situation—with systematic planning and decision–making in advance of the disaster—when and if a disaster occurs, the organisation must reassess the strategy to see if it fits with the situation presented by the particular disaster. If it fits they may proceed with the strategy directly. If it does not fit, they need to reconsider the planning variables.
Case study 2: Not built to last
[Source: Oxfam international 2008 Tsunami response - Sheltering people after disasters: Lessons from the tsunami]
The temporary shelters built in India were an improvement on the emergency shelters offered immediately following the tsunami. But they were only designed to last six months, despite experiences from other disasters that showed that permanent housing can take more than two years to build. The shelters quickly fell into disrepair. Walls made of corrugated tin and tar paper ripped easily. The resulting holes compromised already limited personal space and increased tension between families. Structures made of flimsy material quickly degraded in the sun, wind, and rain. In addition, many shelters were built on low-lying land that was prone to flooding.
The 2005 monsoon season caused further damage to shelters, many of which had leaking roofs and walls. Eighty percent of shelters had no provisions for stormwater drains, and respondents said that water stagnated in and around the houses, breeding mosquitoes and disease. Thirty percent of families reported that they did not have dry places to sleep that season. When this action research was initiated in
October 2006, people in temporary shelters were facing their second monsoon season without a permanent or appropriate shelter. The researchers seeking to find out why this was the case found a complex web of reasons involving factors as varied as government policies, unrealistic time frames, lack of skills and experience on the part of agencies delivering shelters, and inadequate community ownership of reconstruction programs.
After the tsunami, people were in temporary shelters for years longer than expected.
Lack of planning and resources devoted to shelter by NGOs and the government led to temporary shelters that could not withstand environmental conditions, and the construction of permanent shelters was long delayed.
Because many agencies did not foster real community participation and ownership in the shelter construction process, transitional villages disrupted social networks, further increasing the vulnerability of displaced families.
Government policies and coordination
Certain government policies inhibited the building of permanent houses, the researchers found. In one example, the government prohibited construction within a wide buffer zone from the sea. While the zone was ostensibly part of a disaster risk reduction strategy, many residents saw it as a land grab by powerful developers who hoped to build their own projects along the shore. Many fishing families refused to live in the permanent houses built for them farther inland, citing their desire to live near the sea, which improved their ability to make a living. In addition, insufficient coordination between government and NGOs meant that budgets, timelines, and accountability were not always clear and that projects were not properly monitored, especially after people had moved into the shelters.
Image: People wait at the bus stop near a temporary shelter at Colachel. While temporary shelters got people out of emergency shelters, they were only intended to last for three to six months. Many people were living in temporary shelters for years longer than expected. Atul Loke / Panos for Oxfam America