Shelter plays an essential role in post-disaster situations both in saving lives and in promoting early recovery by helping to restore dignity, support livelihoods and re-establish communities. To be effective shelter must be of adequate quality, yet there is no commonly accepted definition of what this means.
This shortfall is compounded by the lack of expertise or institutional knowledge within individual organisations, high staff turnover and the large number of new actors that enter the sector for the first time in post-disaster situations. To some extent this has been overcome by the introduction of standards and indicators in recent post-disaster responses combined with recent initiatives to reform co-ordination structures.
However inconsistencies in terminology, approach and interpretation prevail and quality is often compromised due to post-disaster timescales and budgetary constraints. This paper proposes that quality should be considered from the shelter occupant's perspective, and whilst this will vary in different scenarios, it can be defined by 12 standard characteristics under two key headings - habitability and durability - which provide a framework for designing and subsequently monitoring and evaluating shelter programmes.