Self-recovery from disasters: an interdisciplinary perspective

Working and discussion papers
October 2017
John Twigg, Emma Lovell, Holly Schofield, Luisa Miranda Morel, Bill Flinn, Susanne Sargeant, Andrew Finlayson, Tom Dijkstra, Victoria Stephenson, Alejandra Albuerne, Tiziana Rossetto and Dina D’Ayala

This working paper 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.

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.

Key findings

  • Context: the governmental, economic, environmental and socio-cultural contexts in which self-recovery takes place greatly affect how it progresses. Availability and application of reconstruction grants are influenced by government conditions. Recovery often takes place in multi-hazard environments. Socioeconomic differences and levels of community organisation have an effect on access to, and use of, resources.
  • Drivers and barriers to self-recovery: many different influences contribute to the overall progression of self-recovery or to progress being held back. Important factors include households’ changing needs and priorities, livelihood pressures, psycho-social reactions to disaster, and the level of technical skills and knowledge available.
  • Build back safer: the process of reconstruction in self-recovery is multi-faceted, involving complex decision-making and priority setting by affected individuals and households. It is also influenced by external resources, support and regulations.
  • Interdisciplinarity: effective support for self-recovery requires humanitarian and other actors to take an interdisciplinary approach to both design and implementation of interventions.