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Water supply, sanitation, and shelter have a substantial effect on health and nutritional status. Inadequate water may restrict washing, leading to person-to-person transmission of disease-causing organisms and increased skin diseases. Poor quality water itself may transmit diarrhoea-causing organisms. Poor sanitation leads to a higher level of organisms in the environment which may result in increased transmission of diarrheal disease. Inadequate shelter can expose residents to vectors carrying malaria, yellow fever, and other communicable diseases. In cold climates, exposure to cold is a risk factor for pneumonia.

Moreover, inadequate provision of these life essentials can greatly increase stress in the population. Especially distressing is inadequate water supply, crowded shelter, or inadequately protective shelter. A more complete discussion of the requirements of a newly displaced population can be found in emergency manuals from the Sphere Project manual (click here to open document), the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees manual Handbook for Emergencies (click here to open document), and the UNICEF manual Emergency Field Handbook: A Guide for UNICEF Staff (click here to open document).