Self-recovery from disasters: an interdisciplinary perspective

This working paper by Overseas Development Institute (also available in Filipino and Nepali) presents the findings from a pilot research project that investigated how disaster-affected households in low- and middle-income countries rebuild their homes in situations where little or no support is available from humanitarian agencies. The project was an interdisciplinary collaboration involving social scientists, geoscientists, structural engineers and humanitarian practitioners. It was led by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), working in partnership with CARE International UK, the British Geological Survey (BGS) and University College London (UCL). This pilot project stepped beyond the limitations of agency post-disaster response evaluations and undertook research to understand self-recovery processes, and how supporting self-recovery can contribute to promoting safer shelter reconstruction. The work was broad in scope. It investigated households’ self-recovery trajectories and the wide range of technical, environmental, institutional and socioeconomic factors influencing them over time. It also considered how safer construction practices can be more effectively integrated into humanitarian shelter responses.The findings of the working paper draw on a combination of desk research, expert workshops and field studies, including field trips to Nepal (to visit communities affected by the 2015 Gorkha earthquake) and the Philippines (to communities affected by Typhoon Haima, known locally as Lawin, in 2016, and Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda, in 2013). Findings were shared and debated through in-country workshops, international conferences, and academic and practitioner networks. The research was exploratory, seen as a foundation for longer-term research and action to support self-recovery processes.