Support to the Coordination of Early Recovery Shelter Interventions-Shelter Cluster Lead

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Background and Objectives


Cyclone Nargis struck the southern delta region of Myanmar on the 2nd and 3rd May 2008 and by the time the cyclone subsided more than 750,000 homes were damaged and destroyed. Nargis severely affected 2.4 million people, almost half of the total 4.7 million people living in the affected townships. An estimated 138,000 people were killed. An international aid response quickly followed and after brief initial resistance from the government, aid soon began to flow into Myanmar. Any natural disaster or complex emergency with widespread shelter damage automatically generates an international response from the Global Shelter Cluster (assuming the host government supports an international intervention). In the case of complex emergencies the responder will be UNHCR and for natural disasters the responder with be the IFRC and therefore the Nargis response was led by the IFRC. The emergency phase is defined as the first 3 months after which time the emergency responder hands-over coordination responsibility to an Early Recovery (ER) or development agency to coordinate the sustainable recovery activities.

In Myanmar, UN-HABITAT came forward to lead the Shelter Cluster. Though UN-HABITAT was not present in Myanmar at the time of Nargis, a member of UN-HABITAT Genève-based disaster coordination staff was deployed to Myanmar within days of Nargis striking. This member of staff immediately developed a base for operations, recruited a small team and began liaising closely with government Ministries, IFRC, the UNCT, donors and other key agencies.


  • To support the government’s coordination efforts
  • To provide seamless transition from Emergency to Early Recovery
  • To monitor ‘residual’ Emergency needs and to focus on the most vulnerable
  • To coordinate and monitor Shelter Early Recovery activities
  • To support the adoption of shelter standards
  • To support and facilitate between government and shelter agencies and encourage responsibility sharing
  • To advocate with donors on behalf of shelter sector
  • To optimize the implementation of early recovery shelter interventions
  • To ensure equitable attention to the shelter needs through provision of technical standards, agreed guiding principles, and coherent implementation modalities that promote the principle of ‘Build Back Safer” and ‘Build Back Better’ and complement government interventions.


  • Jointly with IFRC, agreed hand-over strategy building upon the Emergency coordination mechanism and finalized the minimum standards, guiding principles and technical materials
  • In line with the Global Shelter Cluster Coordination guidelines, field and established a coordination core team, building on the existing mechanism of coordination
  • Organized regular shelter cluster meetings and provided regular construction updates
  • Facilitated interactions among partners and with the relevant Ministries and Local Authorities to coordinate on policy, operational approaches, housing designs, minimum standard, and site selections
  • Established formal links with professional associations including Association of Myanmar Architects and promoted inter-cluster linkages at hub levels, especially with WASH cluster for synergy for around settlements and voluntary return
  • Provided implementing partners, authorities and other partners, with information and knowledge to assist in the implementation of early recovery shelter
  • Disseminate IEC materials through shelter partners and hub partners
  • Conduct regional Hub-level training for shelter partners, local authorities, Village tracts leaders, carpenters and artisans in DRR and Building Back Safer building techniques and minimum standards
  • Conduct Shelter Workshop to review effectiveness of the cluster and capture Lessons Learnt


  • Full coordination supported. An effective facility was established, meeting frequently and regularly, sharing information and resolving issues of concern
  • A database on shelter needs/gaps was created and data was circulated regularly for all stakeholders
  • Technical referral materials on shelter design were developed
  • UN-HABITAT DRR project produced a wide range of DRR technical referral information and these were widely circulated including to community members
  • Emergency and early recovery shelter data was collected, collated, analyzed on a monthly basis.
  • Assessment data flowing from the government and agencies
  • UN-HABITAT strengthened the hub coordination mechanism by proving additional Information Assistants to support hub coordination and help collect data
  • The data collected and analyzed by UN-HABITAT has contributed to a much greater degree of awareness of implementing DRR techniques
  • Successful advocacy by UN-HABITAT contributed to significant additional funds being raised for shelter in the early part of 2009 and thus avoiding a crisis soon after the one year anniversary.

Development Partners/ Partners

Development Partners: DFID
Partners: Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, Local Authorities, IFRC, UNOCHA, UNDP, Shelter Cluster Hub coordinators, Shelter Cluster Partners, Myanmar Engineering Society, Association of Myanmar Architects, IASC Country Team, NGOs and UN Agencies