Journal Article

Shelter self-recovery: The experience of Vanuatu


This paper draws from a research project that explored the lived reality of communities in Vanuatu recovering from major disasters to understand the impacts of shelter interventions by humanitarian organizations. It focuses on “shelter self-recovery”, an approach followed by organizations after recent disasters. A global overview of self-recovery highlights the potential of this approach to support recovery pathways and indicates the reliance on local context. The overview shows the need for more evidence on the impact of self-recovery programs. In Vanuatu, the study was undertaken in three island sites—Tanna, Maewo and Pentecost—affected by different disasters, particularly cyclones. It examined three main issues: (a) understanding and interpretation of self-recovery; (b) how the approach has evolved over time; and (c) what is being done by communities to support self-recovery to reduce future disaster risk. Key findings from the field indicated that devastation by disasters such as cyclones can cause a serious scarcity of natural building materials, which impedes the self-recovery process. The other significant issue is that of traditional versus modern building materials, where many people aspire for modern houses. However, poorly constructed modern houses pose a risk in disasters, and there are examples of shelters made of traditional materials that provide safety. Drawing from the field investigations, a set of recommendations were developed for more effective shelter self-recovery by humanitarian agencies in partnership with communities and other stakeholders. These recommendations place importance on contextual factors, community consultation and engagement, and addressing the supply of natural building materials.

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Ahmed, Iftekhar
Parrack, Charles

Oxford Brookes departments

School of Architecture


Year of publication: 2022
Date of RADAR deposit: 2022-06-10

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

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