Innovative shelters solutions for internally displaced persons in the Lake Chad Basin
International Organization for Migration (
United Nations / Multilateral body
In Chad's Lac province where more than 390 000 people have been displaced by insecurity and climate change, IOM builds hazard-resistant semi-durable shelters to provide internally displaced persons long-term protection and opportunities to rebuild their lives in dignity. Through partnerships with local construction companies, community members and women groups, tailored assistance is provided to internally displaced persons while contributing directly to local economic development and social cohesion between displaced persons and their host communities.
The objective of the practice is to contribute to the progressive resolution of the displacement situation in the Lac province by offering displaced persons semi-durable shelters which promote their integration in their new communities. At the same time, the practice contributes to local economic development because the semi-durable shelters are built by local entrepreneurs and all construction materials are sourced locally, thus reducing the environmental impact of the practice.
By providing adequate and dignified living spaces to vulnerable people, the practice directly contributes to SDG 1, 3 and 10. Partnerships with women groups for straw mats and local companies for construction materials ensure limited environmental impact, thus contributing to SDGs 12 and 17. Finally, by supporting the peaceful integration of displaced persons into new communities, the practice contributes to SDG 16.
The starting point for IOM’s shelter interventions in Chad is a series of consultations with displaced persons, local authorities, and host community members to assess the shelter and protection needs of the internally displaced population and conduct shelter planning to ensure that new shelters match existing modes of construction. This approach allows IOM to leverage on key local knowledge to ensure shelter intervention are adequate, but also to get buy in from local community members for the construction of the shelters on their lands. Following this crucial phase, IOM partners with various actors including a local construction entrepreneur to manage the building process, young community members to make the bricks used for the semi-durable shelters, and women groups for the manufacturing of straw mats which are added to the ceilings. Another key feature of the shelter construction process is the fact that displaced persons themselves participate in it, thus ensuring that the shelters are constructed in a manner befitting their needs and likeness. Ultimately, the shelter captures the input from the beneficiary, the community and is in line with global environmental standards.
As a pilot phase, IOM has built 33 semi-durable shelters in the Lac, providing adequate shelter to nearly 200 internally displaced persons. The construction of semi-durable shelters has significantly increased the protection and dignity of displaced persons. Many of the beneficiaries testify of the added value of the shelters for their protection, but also for the wellbeing of their families, as they are protected from extreme weather. Working with an open-minded local provider has also allowed IOM to experiment with more eco-friendly construction materials and construction techniques which both reduce the overall costs of the interventions, but also empower the private sector to engage in humanitarian activities. Aa result of our continuous engagement, the local construction entrepreneur decided to reinvest into the new displaced community by offering five shelters to the displaced persons and by constructing water points to increase their access to water.
Open-minded donors and authorities allowed for the development of a practice using local knowledge existent among communities for building of traditional housing according to seasonal exigencies, while making use of technologies and methods developed in different contexts, to develop a housing style, that can withstand the extreme climatic conditions of the Lake Chad Basin while responding to the needs and wishes of the beneficiaries. Building semi-durable shelter solutions jointly with communities not only increased capacities on the community level but also allowed for a joined development of a best practice harmoniously combining different construction methods for the best possible result. While the shelter may be marginally more expensive than a shelter kit based on international standards, the provided shelter solution is more adapt to the local context, withstands extreme heat and harsh rain and winds and blends into the environment without creating distinctions between host communities and displaced communities. By working jointly with communities, questions of land access, capacity building and knowledge transfer equally benefits of all community members throughout the process. The so developed shelter approach can have far reaching consequences including possible partnerships and knowledge transfer across borders in the Lake Chad Basin and similar contexts as a low cost, high impact community-driven shelter approach.
As the shelter practice was developed jointly with the community, a clear SOP could be defined to share this best practice in similar contexts. A first knowledge exchange already took place with northern Cameroon to learn from this community-driven shelter construction experience. Ideally, these pilot shelters would enable a cross-regional knowledge exchange for climate-change adapted low-cost shelter solutions as best practice for humanitarian shelter approaches. Through a regional programme funded by Germany such a knowledge exchange is planned through the Lake Chad Basin Commission and the AU-led Stabilization Strategy for 2022.
COVID 19 has impacted the programme in so far as cross community rehabilitation and construction has to take into account the impact of mixing different community members throughout the construction process, which could be source for propagation of the virus. Hence the construction process itself is a great opportunity for COVID 19 prevention sensitization and establishing of community-based mitigation measures.
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