Everyone has the right to housing. It has been declared as a fundamental human right fy the United Nations. This encompasses living in peace, dignity and with the security of tenure. 20% of the world's population are homelss or live in very poor housing, such as slums or shanty towns. Climate change, worldwide crises and the continuity of natural and manmade disasters afflict already vulnerable countries or communitities. The displaced populations need to be provided with shelter and housing to prevent post-disaster illness or death caused by factors such as exposure or disease.

Construction industries in developing countries can be developed in order to equip them to manage disasters. The work of engineers plays a vital role in this process through facilitating appropraite and sustainable housing programmes. Developing sustainable materials, construction techniques, the rational use of vernacular materials and incorporating cultural identity and diversity into housing design are some factors that can contribute towards an improvement in the habitat development field.

Examining the emergency response in Haiti has highlighted weaknesses in the post-disaster response, including a shortage of tents and tarpaulins. UN-Habitat stated that sustainable recovery from disaster through the supply of shelter is one of the most controversial and challenging elements of the disaster life cycle, as temporary housing often becomes permanent.

There are many issues related to habitat which need to be assessed and evaluated, including the integration of disaster risk management in the construction of buildings and housing typologies used throught the disaster cycle (emergency shelter response, temporary housing response and permanent housing reconstruction in the aftermath of disaster).

Uncontrolled construction and a lack of functionality in the use of materials can prompt a shortage of materials, for example a bamboo shortage in Asia. The quality of housing construction and settlements is generally questionable due to minimum building standards and a lack of construction codes and regulations. However, when implemented correctly habitat can be used as a platform from which to raise a community's resilience, physical safety and welfare.

Get involved
To get involved and contribute to our Habitat Community of Practice, sign up to the EWB-UK Habitat Google Group and click "join this group".



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