Toward fulfilling minimum standards in humanitarian response

Among the challenges facing the DRR or Humanitarian Assistance community, quality of emergency shelters is probably the hardest to fulfill despite there being clear-cut standards (Sphere Handbook) available to planners. One reason is the inherent difficulties in inter-agency coordination and collaboration. In many instances, international standards set in the Handbook need localization, in consideration of local needs and culture and availability of materials. The inability to establish coherent inter-agency coordination and collaboration regarding the matter is manifested in the disorderliness and substandard shelters that we often come across in the affected areas.

I’m particular about sanitation thus this is what I check out first. What I’ve seen so far, the facilities are far from meeting minimum standards in Sphere. Usually, there’s a hundred or so persons packed into a given shelter, often the open gym of the city or municipality or the public school. And usually there’d only be three portable toilet/bath to the population. From what I’ve seen so far of this portalet/bath, it is still substandard. Quality bath/shower room would look like this

Portable timber washroom via oborain

Just looking at the sample facility uplifts the spirit — and that is one of the aims of emergency assistance, to protect the right to life with dignity which has already received quite a bashing from the disaster. The point of the visualization is that the design of existing portalets/baths in emergency shelters could do much better.

Another shelter facility that is sorely in need of upgrade is the cooking station. The usual scenario is, each family has its own portable stove. A good thing when the name of the game is independent living, but when a relatively small space is commonly shared with 99 or more others, the overall picture created by 100 stoves being used all at the same time is chaos. In this case, common cooking stations–one serving xx families–is the better shelter management option. The portable cooking station would look like this

Grub Hub collapsible outdoor kitchen via grubhubusa

The samples above are merely to provide visualization of what quality facilities look like. These facilities or equipment ought to be made or built during lag periods, that is, as preparatory activity for when the next disaster or emergency happens, and using collaborative means (e.g. bringing in experts in industrial design, temporary agreements with local water providers or cooperatives relative to water supply for portable washrooms and city or municipal governments relative to waste disposal and collection).

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