Spotlight Shelter and Housing

Table of contents

Shelter and housing are crucial elements in minimising vulnerabilities and fostering community resilience. They are integral to comprehensive needs assessments conducted across multiple sectors following significant disasters, conflicts, and crises. Providing shelter is frequently among the foremost concerns for individuals impacted by adversity, as it directly influences their sense of safety, security, and connection within a broader community.


In line with global policies and the needs of affected people, the SRC shifted its focus to supporting the shelter self-recovery initiatives of people and groups rather than merely providing housing solutions. In housing, the SRC stresses the importance of building back safer (BBS) and contributes to strengthening capacities in safe shelter and settlement practices by providing technical support, training and awareness raising. The SRC applies a holistic and multisectoral self-recovery approach increasingly based on Cash and Voucher Assistance (CVA).

In 2022, the Swiss Red Cross supported partners in Ukraine, Madagascar, Moldova, and Kyrgyzstan in ensuring that people affected by disasters and conflict have a safe place to stay. Housing often forms the starting point for SRC engagement and recovery work; in Ukraine, the Shelter engagement in Collective Centers and more permanent solutions are interlinked with supportive measures and services in Active Ageing, Home-based Care and Psychosocial support (PSS), which is a leading strategic direction of the Ukrainian Red Cross.

Key cumulative data

The Swiss Red Cross (SRC) actively contributes to shelter and housing assistance following disasters and crises as part of broader recovery efforts. In 2022, a significant number of individuals, totalling 3,171, received training in implementing safe shelter and housing practices. Additionally, the SRC rehabilitated 82 collective centres, ensuring improved living conditions for those affected. Furthermore, they provided essential supplies to 44,513 individuals impacted by disasters and crises, addressing their immediate needs.

Learn more about our impact on disaster risk management.Opens a new window

Our Programme Countries

World map.The Swiss Red Cross project countries are highlighted in red. Here is the full list: Haiti, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Pakistan, South Sudan, Ukraine.

Results 2022

The examples represent snapshots of our work and highlight some of the specific output results of the year. The impact of the different country programmes in shelter and housing are highlighted in the Programme Domain Disaster Risk ManagementOpens a new window.

Shelter Activities in Western Ukraine

Under the leadership of the Ukrainian Red Cross Society (URCS), the Swiss Red Cross (SRC) has entered the second phase of its response to the humanitarian needs in Ivano-Frankivsk and Ternopil (regions of Western Ukraine). The shelter activities of the multi-sectorial response entail support of short-, mid-, and long-term accommodations for internally displaced people (IDPs). Through continuous investments into the capacities of the local Red Cross structures, the SRC has helped strengthen a local civil society actor and ensured the intervention's sustainability.

Support to Collective Centers

Key activities of the SRC / URCS program in Ukraine focus on improving the living conditions of IDPs in collective centres (CCs). Since the beginning of the program in March 2022, 62 collective centres have been assessed by the local Red Cross partners in Ivano-Frankivsk and Ternopil, and 56 of these have been supported with various measures: nearly 5300 beds have been distributed in the two regions’ household and kitchen appliances are provided, sanitation facilities were improved partition walls to increase privacy were installed. Since Dec 2022, 2058 IDPs have been accommodated in the respective CCs, partly winterised by increasing insulation, replacing windows and installing solid fuel heaters.

Emergency Winterisation

Sensitive infrastructure such as public and central heating facilities and electricity plants have been targeted in recent attacks, resulting in a request for the population to reduce electricity usage. To address this, generators are distributed to vulnerable communities, and additional firewood is provided to support solid fuel heating.

Durable accommodation solutions for Internal Displaced Persons

The SRC / URCS program also focuses on the rehabilitation of durable accommodations. Currently, two buildings in Ternopil and three in Ivano-Frankivsk are in the planning phase for large-scale refurbishment. In Ternopil, the geriatric boarding house Petrike will be completed with eight wheelchair-accessible toilets on the ground floor. The vacant administration building Kozivka will be used for 16 internally displaced / vulnerable families as a long-term accommodation. In Ivano-Frankivsk, the sanitary facilities of the Yabluniv Hospital will be rebuilt according to standards, and the Korshiv Sanatorium will be thoroughly renovated. In addition, the Burshtin school building will receive new windows, new sanitation facilities, and a reorganisation of the room layout to provide long-term accommodation for vulnerable families.

Shelter Response after Tropical Cyclones in Madagascar

Starting on 17 January 2022, torrential rains caused flooding in the Analamanga region, affecting eight districts of the Grand Tana region. Tropical Storm Ana badly hit the country on 23 January, followed by Cyclone Batsirai on 5 February and Emnati on 23 February, killing at least 214 people and affecting approx. 571,100 across the country. In its auxiliary role and mandated to co-lead the Shelter cluster, the Malagasy Red Cross (MRC) responded to the government appeal by mobilising its volunteers who participated in data collection and needs assessment organised by the National Office for Risks and Disaster Management.

Upon request of the MRC and the International Federation of the RC/RC Societies (IFRC), the SRC deployed a shelter programme advisor to support and backstop the shelter and settlements’ strategic planning and implementation in Madagascar. His tasks included overseeing and coordinating all activities, including design, specifications, safer building promotion, supervision and adherence to Housing Land and Property regulations. The shelter and settlements components contributed to joint and integrated programming that builds upon community capacities, quality and accountability to beneficiaries, maximising local capabilities whilst reducing vulnerabilities and risks to shelter and settlements. In addition, the SRC contributed CHF 100000 to the Emergency Appeal of the IFRC to implement the Shelter & Housing activities.

Success Story: Cash for Shelter in Andara Village

Claudine, one of the Cash for Shelter recipients, is a 68-year-old woman who resides in a rural community with her 22-year-old daughter Jorline and her five-year-old grandchild Francine. With the cash and IEC materials received during the BBS training, Claudine could purchase the necessary construction materials and instruct her son-in-law on applying the BBS technique to construct a new house within seven days, repurposing the old house as a kitchen. The Cash for Shelter program, which provides conditional cash to rebuild or repair traditional housing using BBS techniques, has helped to enhance the knowledge of the community and local workers regarding safer construction techniques.

Madagascar: Key data 2022

  • 4,054 households received Standard Shelter Toolkits consisting of two tarpaulins, tools, and fixing materials. They were also sensitised and instructed on Build Back Safer (BBS) techniques.

  • Five training units were developed, covering key messages on Shelter, Build Back Safer (BBS) techniques, Safety/Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), carpenter training, and shelter essentials.

  • 2,972 households trained on BBS construction techniques.

  • 116 MRC volunteers and staff trained in (BBS), promoting key messages in 5 municipalities.

  • 51 NGO partners’ staff trained on Shelter, BBS and Safety/DRR: Save the Children, Medair, CRS and ADRA

  • 5 regional authorities and 27 local carpenters trained on BBS

  • 439 households have received conditional cash for shelter to repair or rebuild their house in Andara

  • 1 model house built by ten local carpenters (BBS training)

Swiss NGO Forum on Reconstruction for Ukraine

On 11 July 2022, the Swiss Red Cross (SRC), Swiss Solidarity, and SKAT co-organised and hosted the 1st Swiss NGO Forum on Reconstruction in Ukraine. The conversation encompassed the following subjects: a roundtable discussion among partners regarding ongoing humanitarian efforts and plans, reports provided by the Shelter Cluster and Technical Working Groups, the concept of Circular Reconstruction, and insights from Switzerland on reusing and upcycling debris. Additionally, the discussion delved into significant concerns and prospects related to programs such as Cash-for-Repair and Cash-for-Host. The SRC also presented techniques for winterisation and their relevance to the current situation. The forum also sought to explore collaborative efforts, resource sharing, and coordination opportunities.

Risk Asbestos

The primary concern with asbestos-containing products is their safe removal, which makes capacity-building and awareness sessions crucial. While UNDP is working on defining standardized approaches, this process will require time. It is thus vital to determine what is feasible now and in which regions it requires a phased approach. Drilling and cutting asbestos-containing products can pose a risk to workers if they are not adequately protected. This is a particular risk in the case of CASH for rehabilitation projects, where beneficiaries/workers will repair as they have always done, unconscious of the risks and needs for protective equipment.

Consensus on Mitigation Measures for Asbestos-Containing Products:

  • Avoid purchasing or rehabilitating with materials that contain asbestos.

  • Provide essential protective equipment for in-kind and CASH support for local partners, workers, and beneficiaries (self-repairs).

  • Conduct awareness-raising sessions and offer a standard operating procedure (SOP) for safely using essential protective equipment.

Green energy solutions for energy supply

Instead of using gas, other options like coal, pellets, and electricity are available. In Western Ukraine, it may be worthwhile to explore more sustainable alternatives. Innovation in the business model is required; At the same time, green energy technology exists and is readily available, some training/updates on technologies may be necessary, but the challenge is understanding how to stimulate or multiply the initiatives that have already started. Donors can aid in financing and promoting initiatives, such as business grants or awards, providing visibility. This, in turn, presents an opportunity for the development of local construction technology companies, leading to employment opportunities.

Adopting a phased approach: Recommendations for sustainable assistance in the current crisis situation

Given the rapidly changing situation, the imperative to prepare for severe winter conditions, and the absence of a long-term outlook, partners must adopt a realistic approach regarding what is achievable in the immediate future. It is crucial to raise awareness among the public and donors that the crisis will likely be prolonged, and funds should be allocated to support a sustainable, phased approach to assistance. While the priority remains on addressing the immediate needs of the affected population, it is essential to consider long-term solutions. In this regard, the Swiss NGO platform can serve as a valuable foundation for a collaborative approach towards sustainable assistance, despite the uncertain situation.

This picture shows a man inside a room opening a window.
Windows replacement and insulation measures in Kirovograd collective centre for IDPs.


In Ukraine, the SRC aims to support recovery efforts over the long run. In line with the URCS One-Plan 2023-2025, this may include reconstruction of (public) infrastructure once the areas with severe infrastructure damage are accessible and secure enough for SRC to deploy personnel and provide comprehensive support to such future projects.

The SRC will continue to advocate putting people and communities affected by disaster or crisis at the centre of its endeavours by promoting participation, empowerment, and social inclusion. Access to information, sensitisation and awareness-raising remains at the centre of its support.

Through networking and proactive involvement with the RC Movement partners, SDC and Swiss NGOs active in shelter & housing, new trends and developments, good practices and lessons learnt are incorporated into SRC processes, its strategic focus and project implementation.

Using sustainable construction materials to minimise waste by repairing and upgrading existing structures and actively recycling and reusing materials will be at the forefront of SRC engagement in Shelter & Housing. The use of materials that are produced or extracted in environmentally harmful ways or that cause pollution will be avoided.

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