To Solve Issues

The Sphere Standard

This is a standard established in 1997 to provide lives with dignity to victims of disputes and disasters in the Sphere project, which was launched by nongovernmental organizations and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Officially, it is called the "Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response."

The Sphere Project is based on the following two basic principles. (From the Sphere Handbook)

1 hose affected by disasters and disputes have the right to live a dignified life, and therefore have the right to receive support.

2 All possible measures must be taken to relieve the pain caused by disasters and disputes.


The Sphere Standard appeared because of the increase in international activities by humanitarian institutions in the 1990s and the refugee crisis in the Great Lakes of Africa region in 1994. These events have raised the recognition of standards for humanitarian responses used by many humanitarian aid agencies and nongovernmental organizations in common. (From "The 55th Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response (The Sphere Standard)", Secretariat of the International Peace Cooperation Headquarters, Cabinet Office)

The Sphere Standard consists of “Four foundation chapters,” which are "What is Sphere?", "The Humanitarian Charter", "Protection Principles" and "Core Humanitarian Standard" and "Four technical chapters." It mentions the minimum standards in key response sectors. The minimum standards in key response sectors are (1) Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion (2) Food Security and Nutrition (3) Shelter and Settlement (4) Health care. (From the Sphere Handbook)

There are few shelters in Japan that meet the standard. According to the Sphere Standard, the area of shelter per capita is 3.5 square meters, but according to the Cabinet Office's "Reference Materials for Measures for Evacuees," the average capacity per capita at a secondary shelter in six prefectures in the Kanto region is 2.54 square meter. The number of restrooms required is for one in 50 people within 48 hours of the disaster and one in 20 people afterwards. It is recommended three times more restrooms for women than those for men. Nevertheless, according to the Cabinet Office's “Security and management Guidelines on Restrooms in Shelters,” only 30 % of the local governments prepared the shelters with portable toilets within three days after the Great East Japan Earthquake.

In this way, it is difficult to say that Japan has achieved the Sphere Standard. The Cabinet Office's “Guidelines for The Management of Shelters” only states that The Sphere standard is "an international standard that should be referred when considering the improvement of the quality of shelters in Japan in the future."


Even in the Kumamoto Earthquake, there were many victims who were sick due to evacuation life. In fact, in the Kumamoto Earthquake, nearly 80 percent of the total deaths were caused by disaster-related deaths, which were more than four times the number of direct deaths caused by traumata. (From "The 296th Report, about the damage caused by the Kumamoto Earthquake in 2016, etc.” published by Kumamoto Prefecture in October 2019) According to a survey by Kazuhiko Kuwasawa of Niigata University, a shelter that does not meet the items of Sphere standards, it is said that there is a high chance of blood clots found in the foot, which is one of the causes of disaster-related deaths. Thus, the Sphere Standard can help prevent disaster-related deaths.

Besides the statistics that the Standard suggested, we think it essential that we should understand their basic concepts, principles and the minimum standard of relief shelters and its activity. As the Sphere handbook points out, “if you do not read the chapters where the basics are written and you only read the chapters that is technical.” Not paying too much attention to meeting what the Standard suggests, we should consider the flexibility for the assistance considering the factors such as local culture, the atmosphere, geological features and the practical situation of a particular local area.