A case study of a multisectoral approach to dignified temporary shelter in protracted displacement in northwest Syria.

Multisectoral approach

Shelter, and the larger concept of settlement, are inextricably linked and should be addressed as a whole rather than separately.”

ECHO’s thematic policy document on shelter and settlements

Recognizing that humanitarian activities are broader than solely addressing the immediate needs of the affected population and should include support to essential services through water, sanitation, health, education, and shelter early recovery projects.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 2585 (2021)

Dignified and safer shelter responses 

1.7 million people live in 1400 unplanned sites. In 2021, 400 sites flooded and in 2022 a severe snowstorm hit the region and caused massive damages. After 11 years of conflict, a new approach to humanitarian shelter responses is required.

  • 2,2 million people in need of shelter and non food items assistance, 1,7 million people live in temporary and unplanned sites.*
  • 80% of people living in IDP sites in NWS are women and children.
  • 800,000 people live in old tents or makeshift shelters.*
  • Harsh conditions require a multisectoral approach to address needs beyond shelter, e.g. winterization and flooding.
  • The Shelter Cluster calls for more dignified shelter and safer living conditions. Annual tent replacement is no longer an option in an 11-year conflict.**
  • Promotes ways for humanitarian and recovery interventions to increase their impact at the local level.
  • Allows humanitarian agencies to better respond to localized crises and pave the way for recovery.
  • Allows for actors to work multisectorally with several stakeholders, and consider the whole population within the settlement with the greatest needs.

Benefits of a multisectoral approach

For affected populations

•Ensures reduction in inequalities and contributes to social cohesion.

•Generates collective response that addresses overarching needs.

•Reduces the risk of secondary displacement.

•Reduces the risk of Gender Based Violence and increase safety for female residents.

•Needs across multiple sectors and populations are addressed and no communities are left behind.

For local stakeholders

•Works with existing governance systems and strengthens the capacity of local actors.

•Promotes neutrality, impartiality and improves trust between stakeholders.

•By addressing wider needs, the approach can improve relations between communities. 

•By addressing wider needs, the approach can improve relations between communities. 

For local humanitarian actors

•Clarity on how to provide a multisectoral assistance to the most affected communities.

•Improves communication between sectors and enables quicker adaption to evolving needs.

•Focuses resources on community needs looking beyond emergency responses.

•A pathway to early recovery interventions.

Achieving a dignified and safer shelter response with RHU

A case study of how the “Technical Annex: Dignified and Safer Living conditions”* can be applied.

Identifying the site profile

•Identify vulnerable communities and sites

•Map locations and boundaries

•Ensure that boundaries consider vulnerable or marginalized populations

Context analysis and needs assessment

•Understand the context of the community

•Understand stakeholder dynamics through stakeholder mapping

•Engage other sectors and clusters like CCCM, Early Recovery, Education, Health, Protection and WASH

•Collect primary data on capacities and vulnerabilities

response planning

•Identify an agency to lead the multisectoral response planning, and agree on priority needs and identified gaps

•Understand policies or programs that may already in place 

•Agree on a timeframe for implementing the multisectoral response plan, and share the plan beyond the target community

and monitoring

•Strengthen community representation for feedback, technical coordination, and monitoring

•Identify roles and responsibilities for implementing and monitoring

•Implement in collaboration with local stakeholders and other clusters

•Use joint monitoring and analysis
for implementation and coordination

•Link camp-level collaboration
to the wider coordination, technical support and decision-making

Identified site

Boundaries were jointly identified. 

Context analysis

Planning Shelter, WASH, Early Recovery, Education, Health, CCCM and Protection.

Technical preparation

Service and site planning, excavation, gravelling and a raised foundation that minimizes need for later flood mitigations and reduces secondary displacement.


Integrated water and drainage systems as part of the site planning and household individual facilities.

Gender and protection

Lockable door, lighting and access to livelihoods and services provided more protection for vulnerable. Coordination with CCCM and monitoring of several sectors made residents feel safer than before.

Complementary services 

The innovative modular design of the RHU was used to create additional services to address needs in Education, Health, Livelihood and Protection.

Joint monitoring

Multi-cluster evaluations conducted and shared for best practice and measurement of impact.

Impact of RHU programs in Northwest Syria

RHUs supported a more settled population. While RHUs are not permanent, PDMs showed that residents felt safer and onward movement in search of a better and more secure location was almost totally eliminated in RHU camps.

  • 7188 RHUs used as family shelters
  • 250 classrooms built by RHUs
  • 52 RHUs used as isolation units for COVID response
  • 7 humanitarian partners have implemented RHUs

I believe it is time to stop using tents. These shelters are delivering dignity and protection in addition to providing a better shelter. Everything around the world is improving to the better and it is time for the humanitarian community to think outside the box”.

Yakzan Shishakly, CEO of Maram Foundation for Relief & Development

At least 40% of houses in Syria are uninhabitable, either destroyed or damaged. It is heart warming to see houses – even if temporary – being set up for people who lived in tents for years. I hope RHUs will provide them a semblance of home

Wojtek Wilk, CEO of The Polish Center for International Aid (PCPM)

Our work in the Middle East and North Africa

From Syria and Iraq, to Jordan and Yemen, we have committed to supporting the most vulnerable populations in the Middle East since the very beginning of our organisation. Take a closer look at our projects in this region below.

Contact us

Contact our team for more information about our projects in Northwest Syria, the Middle East and North Africa, and to learn more about our support and technical assistance.

Antony Merjan

Partnerships Manager (MENA, Asia and the Pacific)

Tim de Haas

Head of Technology