Shelter and NFI Assessment: Syria - September 2017

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Executive Summary

Background Since the beginning of conflict in March 2011, 5.5 million Syrians have been displaced to neighbouring countries and further abroad.1 Within Syria, 6.1 million people are internally displaced and an estimated 13.1 million are in need of humanitarian assistance, including 4.2 million in need of shelter assistance and 4.7 million in need of assistance with non-food items (NFI). 2 Planning and implementing an adequate humanitarian response in Syria has been hindered by significant challenges in accessing detailed and up-to-date information related to the needs of conflict-affected populations, including in terms of shelter and NFIs. In order to strengthen sectoral evidencebased response planning by humanitarian actors in Syria, REACH led a comprehensive shelter and NFI assessment in July 2017 on behalf of the Shelter/NFI Cluster and in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The assessment builds on a previous shelter and NFI assessment that was facilitated by REACH in December 2016. This second assessment covered accessible areas in the governorates of Idleb, Hama, Homs, Aleppo, Dar’a, Quneitra, Ar-Raqqa and Deir-ez-Zor, and made available updated data to inform the 2018 HNO (Humanitarian Needs Overview).


Of the 158 sub-districts in the 8 targeted governorates, 87 were assessed. These 87 sub-districts are home to 60% of the population in the assessed governorates and 34% of the population of Syria.3 In order to cover as wide an area as possible, a mixed methodology approach was employed. Data was collected through a total of 7,252 household surveys in Idleb, Hama, Homs, Aleppo, Dar’a and Quneitra governorates. In Deir-ez-Zor and Ar-Raqqa governorates data was collected through interviews with a total of 244 KIs (key informants) knowledgeable about shelter and NFI issues in their communities. In governorates assessed through household surveys, random sampling was used to allow for findings to be representative with a confidence level of 95% and a margin of error 5% at the governorate level. At the sub-district level, this allowed for findings to be representative with a 95% confidence level and 10% margin of error. Indicators were designed in collaboration with the Shelter Cluster and the UNHCR and built on the tools used in the December 2016 Shelter and NFI assessment, with additional input from cluster members at the Whole of Syria level. Data was collected by REACH, Syria Relief Network (SRN) and Binaa Organization for Development between 6 July and 10 August 2017, following initial training of field teams and a pilot data collection exercise.

Throughout this report, findings are compared with those of the December 2016 Shelter and NFI assessment.

However, in some governorates there was a significant difference in coverage between the two assessments. For this reason, Aleppo and Homs were excluded from all trends analysis. The report also occasionally refers to trends across regions. In that case, Northeast is defined as Ar-Raqqa and Deir-ez-Zor, Northwest is defined as Aleppo, Hama, Homs and Idleb, and South is defined as Dar’a and Quneitra.

Key findings


Households across assessed areas faced high levels of shelter damage and, more generally, inadequate shelter. Shelter adequacy issues were reported by more than half of households in Dar’a, Hama and Quneitra and more than 30% in Aleppo, Idleb and Homs. KIs in Ar-Raqqa and Deir-ez-Zor also estimated that more than half of the households in their communities faced shelter adequacy issues. The most commonly reported shelter adequacy issue was exposure to the elements, such as cold and rain, which is likely to exacerbate difficulties faced by households in the coming winter. The most commonly reported shelter damage issues were broken or cracked windows, doors being unable to shut properly and cracks in walls, although more than a quarter of households in Dar’a and Hama reported fire damage to their shelter. The highest percentages of households living in heavily damaged shelters (total building collapse, heavy fire damage, fully collapsed walls) were found in Hama and Quneitra. The most commonly reported cause of shelter damage across assessed areas was conflict-related.

For households renting their shelters, the average monthly rent ranged from 12.02 USD in Homs to 37.06 USD in Aleppo. Average rent was lower in Hama, Homs and the South (Dar’a and Quneitra) than in Aleppo and Idleb. In both Ar-Raqqa and Deir-ez-Zor, KIs estimated average rent to be over 30 USD per month. Even though rent was higher (among governorates assessed through household surveys) in the Northwest than in the South, the ability of households to cover rent was lowest in the South, with more than 40% of households in Dar’a and Quneitra having missed at least one rent payment in the past three months. In Ar-Raqqa governorate, 70% of KIs reported that rental space was unavailable in their communities.

In all governorates assessed through household surveys, at least 15% of households reported that they do not possess the documentation required to prove their shelter tenancy status. These numbers were highest in Idleb and Hama, where over 40% of households lacked shelter documentation. In Ar-Raqqa and Deir-ez-Zor, all KIs reported that land registries were not functioning in their communities.
The percentage of households evicted from their shelters over the past year was generally higher in the South than in the Northwest, although assessed areas of Hama and Homs also reported high eviction rates. In Hama, Homs, Dar’a and Quneitra, over 5% of households reported having been evicted in the past year. Almost 30% of KIs in Deir-ez-Zor reported that evictions had been common in their communities, mostly due to forcible seizure of property by armed groups.

Of households with shelter damage, more than half in all governorates assessed through household surveys were unable to make repairs, almost entirely due to affordability challenges (inability to afford shelter repair materials or repair services). These percentages were highest in Idleb and Hama, where over 70% of households with shelter damage could not repair their shelters. The shelter repair item most frequently reported as unaffordable was by far cement, which was reported as unavailable or unaffordable by at least 88% of households or KIs in all governorates. In Quneitra, similarly high proportions of households reported that plastic sheeting or tarpaulin and basic tools were unavailable or unaffordable.

The percentage of households that reported having received shelter support information over the past year ranged from 27% in Aleppo to 59% in Homs. Almost all KIs in Ar-Raqqa, but almost none in Deir-ez-Zor, reported that information on shelter support was available in their communities. The most common sources of this information were generally local councils or community representatives and friends or relatives.

Households reported a high preference for unconditional cash among shelter support modalities. In all governorates assessed through household surveys, the majority of households expressed a preference for this modality, except in Homs where the majority had no preference. However, only 7% of KIs in Ar-Raqqa and Deirez-Zor reported that their communities preferred cash, in contrast to the high levels of reported preference for cash as a means of shelter support in all other governorates. In Deir-ez-Zor, the majority indicated that the community had no preference for a specific shelter support modality, while the majority in Ar-Raqqa indicated a preference for external actors making or assisting with repairs directly.

As an overall trend, assessed sub-districts in Hama were found to face significant challenges across most shelter indicators from damage and inability to afford needed shelter repair materials to evictions and lack of documentation to prove shelter tenancy status. Idleb also stood out with high rates of lack of tenancy status documentation and inability to afford needed shelter repair materials. Even though rent was higher in the Northwest than in the South, the ability to pay rent was substantially lower in the South and as a result evictions were more common there.

For many shelter indicators, such as shelter type and occupancy arrangement, female-headed and IDP households were especially likely to live in vulnerable conditions in governorates where comparison was possible. 4 Female-headed households were especially likely to be hosted without having to pay rent. Eviction rates were significantly higher for female-headed households.

Across assessed areas, IDPs were more likely than non-IDPs to live in more vulnerable shelter types, such as informal settlements and unfinished buildings. IDPs were also more likely to live under more vulnerable occupancy arrangements, such as renting and being hosted without rent.

Comparisons with the December 2016 Shelter and NFI assessment revealed that shelter conditions remained relatively unchanged across governorates where comparison was possible. 5 The exceptions to this were Hama and Ar-Raqqa, where conditions had worsened, likely due to intense conflict in both governorates during this period. 6, 7 Rates of shelter inadequacy and damage had generally increased in all comparable governorates, except Dar’a. Among households with shelter damage, the ability to make repairs had increased in all governorates where comparison was possible. Increases were also observed in the percentage of households that possessed shelter documentation and had access to information about shelter support.


Across assessed governorates, winter clothing and portable light sources were consistently reported as top NFI needs. In addition to winter clothing, heating fuel, winter heaters and other winterization items were frequently reported among needs and as items that households would purchase if given cash or cash vouchers.

This suggests that many households were already actively thinking about winterization needs even though the assessment was conducted in the summer months.

Clothing and shoes were by far the top NFI needs reported for children in all assessed governorates.
Reported top NFI needs for elderly varied more across governorates, although cooking fuel, water containers, portable light sources, clothing and heating fuel were frequently reported. In Hama and Homs, a significant percentage of households reported mattresses/sleeping mats and bedding items as top needs for all age and gender groups, while winterisation items (such as heating fuel, winter heaters and winter clothing) were more commonly reported as top needs in Quneitra than elsewhere.

Overall, more than half of households in all governorates assessed through household surveys faced availability or affordability challenges in accessing NFIs, ranging from 65% in Homs and 69% in Dar’a to 84% in Idleb and Hama. Among assessed NFIs, the ones most commonly reported as unavailable or unaffordable were portable light sources (e.g. solar lamps, torches) and cooking fuel, followed by batteries, water containers, clothing and heating fuel. In general, hygiene items were less frequently reported to be unavailable or unaffordable than other NFIs in all assessed governorates except Ar-Raqqa.

In all governorates, markets were the most common means of accessing NFIs, although the percentages of households using markets to access NFIs was lower in Quneitra (47%) and Idleb (57%) than in other governorates assessed through household surveys.

Gas (LPG) was the most common source of cooking fuel in all assessed governorates other than Ar-Raqqa, where KIs estimated that kerosene was their main source of cooking fuel for 67% of households. While gas was the main source of cooking fuel in Hama, 38% of households reportedly use electricity for cooking. More than half of households in governments assessed through household surveys used coping strategies to cope with a lack of sources of cooking fuel, except in Homs where the rate was 41%. The highest percentage was in Hama, where 80% of households reported using coping strategies. The most commonly reported coping strategies were reducing expenditure on other items to pay for fuel and reducing the amount of fuel used for other purposes.

In Dar’a, Hama, Homs, Idleb and Quneitra, the most commonly used primary heating fuel was by far wood or charcoal. In Aleppo, diesel was the most common with wood or charcoal being a close second. In both ArRaqqa and Deir-ez-Zor, KIs estimated that kerosene/kaz was most the most common heating fuel, with wood or charcoal being used by an estimated 20% of households. In Aleppo and Quneitra, over 20% of households indicated having no source of heating fuel.

Access to electricity (in terms of average hours of access per day) was highest in Hama and Homs, where more than half of households reported having access to the main electricity network. This was one of the few indicators in both the shelter and NFI categories where conditions were better in Hama than in other assessed areas. Access to electricity was lowest in Quneitra and Ar-Raqqa, followed by Idleb. Generators were the main source of electricity in Aleppo, Idleb, Ar-Raqqa and Deir-ez-Zor, while solar panels were the main source of electricity for more than half of households in Dar’a. A majority in Quneitra also reported that they had no source of electricity.

Information on NFI support was more frequently reported to be available than information on shelter support, except in Deir-ez-Zor where availability of the two was equally low. The most common sources of information were local councils and word of mouth, although mukhtars were also a common source of information in Ar-Raqqa.

There was generally a high preference for unconditional cash support among the NFI support modalities, while few indicated a preference for conditional vouchers. In Homs, NFI distributions were preferred by a significantly larger percentage of households than in any other governorate assessed through household surveys.

In Deir-ez-Zor, the majority of KIs indicated that the community had no preference for one particular modality of NFI support.

For many NFI indicators, as with the shelter indicators, female-headed and IDP households were particularly vulnerable in governorates where comparison was possible. 8 Female-headed households were less likely to use markets to access NFIs and more likely to rely on humanitarian distributions. In Idleb and Dar’a, a significant number of female-headed households also cited a lack of access or suitability of markets for women as a challenge.

Compared to December 2016, the NFI situation had improved in all governorates where it was possible to make comparisons except in Hama.9 Aside from the electricity situation, which was better in Hama than in other governorates, NFI indicators in Hama had remained the same or worsened. As a general trend, rates of unavailability and unaffordability had decreased for most NFIs in most governorates, as had the percentage of households reporting challenges in accessing markets for NFIs. Additionally the percentage of households who had received information on the availability of NFI support had increased in all governorates, expect for Hama where it had decreased.