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close this bookAn Overview of Disaster Management (Department of Humanitarian Affairs/United Nations Disaster Relief Office - United Nations Development Programme , 1992, 136 p.)
close this folderChapter 12. Rehabilitation and reconstruction
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Rehabilitation and reconstruction comprise most of the disaster recovery phase. This period following the emergency phase focuses on activities that enable victims to resume normal, viable lives and means of livelihood. It also includes the restoration of infrastructure, services and the economy in a manner appropriate to long-term needs and defined development objectives. Nevertheless, after some disasters, there also may be a need for continuing humanitarian assistance for selected vulnerable groups.

This chapter provides brief guidelines concerning assistance to rehabilitation and reconstruction following a disaster. Although presented here as a separate chapter, rehabilitation and reconstruction must, in fact, be planned for either at the same time as relief, or built up during the relief operations.


For some agencies it is important to distinguish between rehabilitation and reconstruction. Specifically, rehabilitation is the actions taken in the aftermath of a disaster to enable basic services to resume functioning, assist victims’ self-help efforts to repair dwellings and community facilities, and facilitate the revival of economic activities (including agriculture).

Rehabilitation focuses on enabling the affected populations (families and local communities) to resume more-or-less normal (pre-disaster) patterns of life. It may be considered as a transitional phase between (i) immediate relief and (ii) more major, long-term reconstruction and the pursuit of ongoing development.


Reconstruction is the permanent construction or replacement of severely damaged physical structures, the full restoration of all services and local infrastructure, and the revitalization of the economy (including agriculture).

Reconstruction must be fully integrated into ongoing long-term development plans, taking account of future disaster risks. It must also consider the possibilities of reducing those risks by the incorporation of appropriate mitigation measures. Damaged structures and services may not necessarily be restored in their previous form or locations. It may include the replacement of any temporary arrangements established as a part of the emergency response or rehabilitation.

Under conditions of conflict, however, rehabilitation and reconstruction may not be feasible. For obvious reasons of safety and security, activities in rehabilitation and reconstruction may need to wait until peace allows them.