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close this bookHandbook for Emergencies - Second Edition (UNHCR, 1999, 414 p.)
close this folder12. Site Selection, Planning and Shelter
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentOverview
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentOrganization of Response
View the documentCriteria for Site Selection
View the documentSite Planning: General Considerations
View the documentSite Planning: Specific Infrastructure
View the documentShelter
View the documentReception and Transit Camps
View the documentPublic Buildings and Communal Facilities

Organization of Response

· Site selection, planning and shelter have a major bearing on the provision of other assistance.

· This subject must therefore be considered as essential to a problem and needs assessment and response.

· Expertize is necessary, as is swift coordinated planning of a new site or the improvement of existing conditions.


15. Site selection, planning and provision of shelter have a direct bearing on the provision of other assistance and will be important considerations in the overall assessment of problems and needs and planning of response. Decisions must be taken as part of an integrated approach and in light of the advice of specialists and views of the refugees.

Contingency Planning

16. Ideally sites should be selected, planned and developed prior to the arrival of the refugees. However, frequently the scale, nature, timing or direction of movement of the refugee flow will mean that some or all aspects of a contingency plan may need to be modified in the face of changing or unforeseen events. The information previously gathered in the contingency planning process, however, will usually be useful.

17. Because of the nature of emergencies, and because practical and political considerations are often the primary determinant of the location of a site, the immediate priority will often be to improve sites where refugees have spontaneously settled.

Information for Site Selection and Planning

18. The information previously gathered from the contingency planning process, and information already available (maps and data) should be reviewed to assist in determining the range of options for sites. Information that is essential for planning will often be in the form of maps, reports surveys and other data and should typically cover such areas as topography, land use, climate, soils, geology, hydrology, vegetation, infrastructure and key natural and cultural resources. Sources of information may include government offices, educational institutions and UN agencies. UNHCR Headquarters, through the focal point on Geographical Information Systems (GIS) can also support operations with maps, aerial photographs, satellite images and a special geographic database.

Expertize and Personnel

19. Expertize may be required in the fields of hydrology, surveying, physical planning, engineering (e.g. water supply, environmental sanitation, road and bridge construction, building materials, etc.), public health, the environment and perhaps social anthropology. Familiarity with conditions in both the country of origin and asylum is very important. Prior emergency experience and a flexible approach are particularly valuable.

20. Expertize and advice should be sought through UNHCR's Engineering and Environmental Services Section, who will advise on the fielding of a specialist to coordinate activities in this sector. Potential sources of the necessary expertize are government line ministries, national and international NGOs, architecture and engineering faculties, local industry and professional organizations, as well as other UN organizations.

21. Site selection and settlement planning require broad consultations with all concerned in the planning, development and use of the site. When appropriate, multi-sector planning teams, work-groups or task-forces might be formed to better structure consultations and better solicit inputs. Consensus should be sought, though it is rare that the needs of all the parties will be fully satisfied.