IOM in Shelter

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has played a major role in humanitarian shelter and settlements operations for many decades. IOM’s unique position as an intergovernmental organization allows it to work at scale in both natural disasters and conflict/complex contexts. IOM works in both operations and coordination, and plays a strong role working with partners in support of national authorities. Throughout 2019, IOM delivered one quarter of reported global humanitarian shelter assistance as reported by the Global Shelter Cluster, this excludes IOMs shelter programming in refugee responses.

IOM’s overall objectives in shelter programming are (1) to focus on quality and scale of operations, (2) to be people-centred and context driven, (3) to continue supporting interagency shelter coordination, (4) to support sectoral learning and identification of best practices, and (5) to maintain a longer term view of shelter response. For more on IOMs approach to shelter see the emergency manual (https://emergencymanual.iom.int/).


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Over the course of 2019, IOM’s Shelter and Non-Food Item (NFI) programmes reached over 4 million crisis-affected individuals, over 841,000 households, across 41 countries. This assistance was delivered directly by IOM as well as through partners and IOM managed common pipelines. 


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The most significant change in shelter assistance in 2019 from the previous year was towards cash-based interventions with shelter objectives which increased 3-fold compared to the previous year, benefitting 256,000 households.

IOM plays a strong role in inter-agency shelter responses. Throughout 2019, IOM continued to lead inter-agency shelter coordination in many countries and support coordination in many others. Globally, IOM remained a key member of the Strategic Advisory Group of the Global Shelter Cluster and continued to lead global working groups on the Shelter Projects (http://www.shelterprojects.org) diaspora engagement (www.sheltercluster.org/working-group/diaspora), disability inclusion (www.sheltercluster.org/working-group/inclusion-persons-disabilities-shelter-programming), and is delivering key activities of the Promoting Safer Building Working Group of the Global Shelter Cluster under the IEC Material Compendium project.

IOM works towards strengthening the housing, land and property (HLP) component of its shelter operations, placing a consistent focus on security of tenure. HLP considerations have become key elements of shelter programmes in Bangladesh (Cox’s Bazar), Burundi, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan and Syria. IOM also provides critical global capacity on land tenure issues by hosting the HLP Advisor to the Global Shelter Cluster. (https://www.sheltercluster.org/hlp)

IOM has been working closely with EU civil protection agencies to further develop and promote the Mass Evacuation after Natural Disaster (MASC) Toolkit. This work included extended preparedness activities with EU member states including Portugal and Slovenia.

Good Shelter programming and context driven responses

IOM continued to focus on good shelter programming at scale, and to this end capacity building activities for affected people increased during 2019. Globally, IOM continued to reinforce global efforts to mainstream protection in shelter operations with a focus on GBV risk reduction (https://www.sheltercluster.org/gbv), disability inclusion and the PSEA. Particular focus was made on better and more inclusive distributions which continued at a very large scale, and in settlement planning by IOM staff and partners.

IOM’s programming remained strongly based on local and contextualized needs analysis. In countries where IOM delivered shelter-related items and household-related NFI's in 2019, and post-distribution data is available, over 87 per cent of beneficiaries reported that the assistance had contributed to achieving improved shelter outcomes, and nine out of ten people reported that the assistance had been appropriate.

The Role of Shelter in IOM

During the 101st session of the IOM Council, IOM's 149 Member States adopted the Migration Crisis Operational Framework (MCOF), a framework which highlights Shelter and NFI response as a core component of this framework. 

IOM’s Shelter responses are defined after conducting needs assessments of the affected populations. As a result, following a crises, IOM implements a variety of different shelter and NFI programmes that cover all response phases in both conflicts and natural disaster affected countries. There is a diverse range of operations and forms of support that take place. Shelter programmes are not only limited to construction and distribution. 

Shelter Activities in recent years have included: 

  • Stockpiling and preparedness; 
  • Distribution, NFI and shelter supply chain and logistics; 
  • Common pipeline management 
  • Shelter construction, repair and winterization; 
  • Shelter recovery support and training; 
  • Rental support; 
  • Site planning support and upgrade; 
  • Shelter coordination; 
  • Preparedness and Disaster Risk Reduction. 

To learn more about IOM shelter and NFI activities, as well as other areas of humanitarian assistance, please visit the Operations section of IOM’s Emergency Operations Manual.