What’s in a Message? Unpacking Post-Disaster Housing Guidance

What’s in a Message? Unpacking Post-Disaster Housing Guidance

This blog post comes from one of our masters students, Zhenwen (Fiona) Wang, who is researching key messages to help households build back safer after disasters in the Philippines.


Rising population and urbanization continue to be two main drivers of disaster risk. In the last five decades the number of disasters has more than quadrupled and this trend is continuing. While mortality rates continue to decline from disasters, the mounting pressure of disasters on global poverty is more urgent than ever.

A vast majority of people affected by disasters lead their own housing reconstruction. How can we ensure that this is not only possible but also safe for them to do so?

Messages to Support Shelter Self-Recovery

There is an increasing number of humanitarian organizations who aim to support shelter self-recovery. This support consists of material, financial, and technical assistance to help affected families repair or rebuild their homes.

Only 6% of disaster-affected households receive shelter assistance. The quality and durability of this housing rarely addresses pre-disaster vulnerabilities.

To assist affected households to reconstruct their homes efficiently, the Global Shelter Cluster continues to publish guidance on strategies to support self-directed recovery. For example, after the occurrence of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013, the Malawi floods in 2015, and the Nepal earthquake in 2015, the Shelter Cluster produced key messages to guide household reconstruction. A few of these examples are shown.

Philippines Key Messages
Nepal Key Messages
Malawi Key Messages

These guides form a basis to engage with affected populations to ensure that reconstruction is safe. Developing communities have fewer resources at their disposal and while this guidance is useful, prioritising these messages holds potential allow households to allocate their resources where they are needed most.

My research, as part of my Master of Professional Engineering, is focusing on prioritizing and quantifying build back safer messages for humanitarian shelter by surveying experts over three rounds. We are asking experts to assess construction components using pairwise comparisons to rank the relative importance of messages, focusing on messages developed after Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.


Interested in learning more about Fiona’s research? Follow our lab on Facebook to receive updates when her results are published or follow our blog to stay up to date.

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