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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

Public Buildings and Communal Facilities

· Public buildings should be used only as short term accommodation to gain time to provide more suitable shelter;

· Right from the beginning, intensive maintenance of infrastructure and utilities should be provided;

· The UNHCR shelter standards should be applied.

94. Public buildings such as schools are sometimes used initially as shelter. This is particularly the case in cold conditions which demand very rapid shelter response.

95. Where possible such accommodation in public buildings should be a temporary solution. The supporting infrastructure of the building (water, electricity, sanitation) will deteriorate very quickly with concentrated use, to the extent that living conditions can become dangerously unhealthy. The buildings decay rapidly primarily because they are unsuited to such large numbers and lack the necessary infrastructure and utilities. In addition the very low sense of responsibility by its inhabitants contributes to the deterioration.

96. The normal use of the building has to be suspended with various social and economic consequences (the buildings might otherwise be used for example as schools, sanatoria, workers' or students' dormitories, sports halls and hotels). Both local and national governments are therefore reluctant to transform public buildings into humanitarian shelter.

97. In order to ensure a healthy environment, it is particularly important to ensure regular operational and preventive maintenance in public buildings. Neglecting to maintain a building from the outset can have serious health consequences for the refugees, and economic consequences for the host government.

98. The UNHCR minimum shelter standard of some 3.5 to 5.5 m2 per person should be applied, as well as the standard for public sanitation (maximum 20 persons per toilet/latrine). Public buildings, such as schools, are not equipped to serve the sanitation needs of large populations including basic toilet use, as well as personal hygiene such as laundry and cleaning dishes.