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Shelter indicators

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There are several indicators of the adequacy of shelter for an emergency-affected population. This discussion will again focus only on those quantitative indicators which may be measured in newly displaced populations. See the Sphere Project manual (click here to open document)pages 211-229 for a discussion of other shelter indicators.

Size of camp and area per capita

Crowded conditions may lead to increased person-to-person disease transmission and increased stress. As a result, provision of enough space, both outside shelters and inside shelters, is an important part of emergency relief.

This indicator must be measured by mapping or somehow measuring the size of the camp, including common areas, paths, roads, and public buildings. It cannot really be measured by individual data collection during a survey or surveillance. Camp managers should have maps of the camp from which the area can be estimated. The population is then divided by the number of square meters to determine how much space is available per person.

The Sphere Project recommends a minimum of 45 m2 per person total space in the camp. This includes roads, footpaths, educational facilities, sanitation facilities, firebreaks, administration offices, water storage, distribution areas, markets and storage, plus limited kitchen gardens for individual households.

Amount of indoor space available per person

Indoor space is necessary to provide protection from bad weather, cold, disease vectors and to provide security and privacy. People often build their own shelters with relief agencies providing some of the materials, such as plastic sheeting for the roof or door and window frames. Relief agencies should provide sufficient materials so that individual households can build shelters of adequate size.

The amount of indoor space available is rarely measured. Early in an emergency, newly displaced-people built make-shift shelters from whatever materials are available. The size of these shelters is difficult to measure. However, in some emergencies, relief agencies provide tents or other ready-made shelters. In such cases, responsible organizations should monitor the amount of indoor space provided. An example of how to measure this indicator is described below.

Measuring indoor space

Virtually all Kosovar refugees in camps in Macedonia were given space in tents; however, it was suspected that this space was inadequate. During a nutrition and health assessment survey, the type of tent in which a selected household lived was identified and the total number of residents in this tent counted. The floor space provided by each type of tent was calculated from its dimensions. From this, the average amount of indoor space per person could easily be calculated. Only 17% of members of selected households had adequate indoor living space.

The Sphere Project recommends that residents have at least 3.5 m2 meters of indoor living space.