Same old same old – only worse this year

Some New Year thoughts from the CEO of the ShelterBox Trust ….

Chris Warham

It’s that team of year when retrospectives and predictions come to the fore.

Does it really matter who will win this of that or whether the Wall St will finish the year at a new high or not?  Most I can ignore or spend just a few moments on.

But IRIN news – the well respected humanitarian news organisation – gave some chilling stats for their 2018 predictions.

If last year was one of the most difficult years for humanitarian crisis ever then 2018 looks likely to be even worse. IRIN News’ Top Ten for 2018 doesn’t make good reading .
irin news

  1. Syria – after 7 years of war humanitarian need is not going away
  2. Democratic Republic of Congo is unravelling with huge population displacement – 1.7 million people abandoned their homes.
  3. Yemen famine gets worse by the day.  8.4 million on the verge of starvation
  4. South Sudan looked like an…

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After Irma and Maria – The road to recovery in the Dominican Republic

Yanira, aged 23, and their two daughters, aged five and sevenYanira’s Story

Yanira, aged 23, her husband and their two daughters, aged five and seven, live in Santiago, Dominican Republic.

Their house backs on to a river, which flooded the surrounding area during Hurricanes Irma and Maria. When the river rose, the ground fell away under the concrete foundations of their house causing it to crack and a huge hole emerged.

Yanira said: ‘The river flooded through the house. It was at least a metre high. The walls cracked, there is a hole in the floor, which you can see the river through. We need to stay here until we can find a house further from the river, but it’s not safe.’

ShelterBox is working with fellow aid agency Habitat for Humanity to support people affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Dominican Republic. ShelterBox are providing the emergency shelter component of this response.

A ShelterKit comprises 2 large, strong tarpaulins plus tools and fixings

ShelterBox provided Yanira and her family with a ShelterKit, containing the materials needed to repair damaged structures and create emergency shelter, such as tarpaulins, tools and fixings. A team, made up of Habitat for Humanity, ShelterBox and local community members, used the kit it to build a temporary shelter from scratch in front of Yanira’s house.

A ShelterBox Response Team member helps construct a shelter

Yanira and her family will stay in this until they find a house further from the river. The team built the temporary shelter for Yanira’s family as a way of exploring, with the community, how the ShetlerKit tools and materials could be used in a way that suited the needs of the community. The shelter will also be supplemented in places, using materials from Yanira and her husband’s old house.

Yanira said: ‘I feel better. I feel safer and more comfortable than what we had before. In the other house, we were too close to the river. I feel afraid of that.’

Milagro’s Story

Milagro is a single mother of three children between the ages of three and 11. Her daughter suffers from chronic sickle-cell anaemia, a serious health condition.

Milagro and her children live in Miches in the Dominican Republic, which was hit badly by Hurricane Maria, a fierce storm that came hot on the heels of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Jose. Their experience of the hurricane was terrifying.

She said: ‘The wind removed the roof of my house. The river washed through it from one side, and sea rose up from the other, bringing a boat crashing against the back wall, causing a floor-to-ceiling crack in the concrete.’

ShelterBox, Habitat for Humanity and World Vision are working together in Miches to support communities affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

In addition to receiving ShelterKits, people in Miches were also given training so that the community could learn about the different items and explore different techniques for using them.

They then did a practical demonstration, where a team made up of Habitat for Humanity, ShelterBox, World Vision and local community members, used a ShelterKit to repair Milagro’s roof, with supplementary pieces of timber.

Milagro said: ‘The repaired roof will change my life a lot because whenever it rained my bed got wet. It was too uncomfortable to stay in that situation.’

‘I’ve learnt so much today. Now I know how to repair my house myself, I am planning to repair the roof in the other rooms as well.

‘I am very happy because I am a part-time cleaner so I wouldn’t have the money to mend my roof without this. But because of the project this is possible.’

ShelterBox continues to help families in the Dominican Republic and other parts of the Caribbean affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria

To donate please click here: PLEASE DONATE

ShelterBox Australia Newsletter – November 17

More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar for sanctuary in Bangladesh

 

As world news continues to be dominated by the Rohingya Crisis in Bangladesh and Myanmar, I’m proud to say that newly qualified Australian ShelterBox Response Team Volunteer, Tommy Gray has deployed to help continue our response. Tommy typifies our volunteers, having already given up 2 weeks of his time to SRT selection and training, completed 50+ hours of pre-course study and put his hand up to help out with our recent USOPs course (see details below). He will now spend the next 3 weeks in Bangladesh helping some of the most vulnerable people in the world. Many of our other volunteers have been busy promoting ShelterBox and raising much-needed funds for disaster relief. These volunteers, like our donors, are an essential part of the ShelterBox team. If you would like to give some time to helping those affected by disaster, check out our website at:

https://www.shelterboxaustralia.com.au/  You may like to become an Ambassador, a Club Advocate or trek the Annapurna and raise funds. Whatever you chose, we’d love to have you on the team!

This month’s quote comes from H Jackson Brown Jnr, “Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.”
 

DEPLOYMENTS

BANGLADESH – Floods and Rohingya Crisis

Recent Monsoon rains in Bangladesh were reportedly the worse for four decades, with a third of the country affected by flooding. According to the Shelter Cluster, overall response to the floods has been slow, with much effort diverted to the Rohingya Crisis in the South of the country. ShelterBox was one of the few actors responding to the floods in the North. Distributions are now complete, with 3000 families provided with emergency shelter and essential items like mosquito nets and solar lights. Our response would not have been possible without the help of The Rotary Club of Dhaka Kawran Bazar, The Rotary Club of Rhangpur and the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society.

Recent violence in Rhakine state in Myanmar has prompted a rapid exodus of ethnic Rohingya across the border into South Eastern Bangladesh. According to Relief Web, 621,000 Rohingya have crossed into Bangladesh since August 25th. ShelterBox is working with the International Organisation for Migration, who has distributed 8000 tarpaulins, blankets, water carriers and 8000 Luminaids. We are now looking to partner with local NGO, BRAC to further expand our response. Australian SRT volunteer, Tommy Gray has deployed to Bangladesh as part of this response.

CARIBBEAN – Hurricanes Irma and Maria

Hurricane Irma made landfall on northeast Caribbean islands during the early hours of 6 September. Two million people were exposed to winds in excess of 215 km/h.

ShelterBox Response Teams in the Caribbean continue the complex task of evaluating need and delivering emergency shelter to the families that desperately need it. In Antigua and Barbuda we have provided 147 ShelterKits and 123 tents, as well as household relief items such as water purifiers and carriers, solar lamps and mosquito nets.These efforts will support Barbudan returnees as they work to repair and rebuild their homes. 300 additional tents are in transit.

In Dominica the team is conducting post-distribution monitoring across the four communities in ShelterBox’s area of operations. Gaps not covered by the first distribution of ShelterKits have now been filled, with 498 households having benefitted from our support. The team has distributed 1435 solar lamps and other aid Items to affected households in the same communities.

In the Dominican Republic, the Habitat For Humanity team has been in the field for the past week, continuing training and distribution, and conducting post-distribution monitoring to ensure families are using the kits in the best way and progressing towards recovery. Latest confirmed numbers are 335 Shelter Kits distributed to families

Cameroon – Conflict

The militant group Boko Haram has been waging an insurgency in Northern Nigeria since 2009. Violence has since spread into the border regions of Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

Since 2015, ShelterBox has been supporting remote distributions in Cameroon with the help of our in-country partner, IEDA Relief. Distributions have focussed on Minawao Refugee Camp and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) just outside the camp. 862 semi-durable shelters have been constructed (888 more will be constructed in the coming months). 445 AMG tents and other essential items have been distributed in Minawao camp. In addition, 100 SchoolBoxes, 5000 packs of school supplies and 1,032 Hygiene Kits have been distributed.

ShelterBox is also active in Somaliland, responding to drought and disease, and the Chad Basin, and Niger responding to conflict and displacement. Our long-term projects continue to help displaced families in Iraq and Syria.

FUNDRAISING & AMBASSADOR NEWS

Do you want to do something to help those in need?Join us on the ShelterBox Nepal Trek 2018 and help ensure no family goes without shelter following disaster or humanitarian crisis.

Trek the majestic Annapurna region and raise funds for ShelterBox. Every step you take you helps us rebuild communities after disaster strikes.

ShelterBox Australia has partnered with Inspired Adventures to bring you an enlightening and engaging experience. For details see:

https://inspiredadventures.com.au/events/ShelterBox-Nepal-Trek-2018/

PLEASE SHARE THIS LINK WITH FRIENDS WHO MAY BE INTERESTED

Rotary Club of Tenterfield – Jazz in the Bush

Tenterfield Rotary’s annual ‘Jazz in the Bush’ was held earlier this month with ShelterBox the chosen beneficiary. The event took place at the historic Steinbrook Hall and attendees were treated to champagne on arrival and a 3-course lunch with entertainment provided by jazz combo, The Essential Collective. The event was supported by local wine makers, the Brass Monkey Brewery and local food producers. Club members worked hard to create a fantastic event at a great location. It is hoped that the event will have raised over $2000 for disaster relief!

Understanding ShelterBox Operations (USOPs) Course, Brisbane

ShelterBox Australia held its first ‘Understanding ShelterBox Operations’ Course from 17th -19th November at the Allawah Scout Camp, near Ipswich, QLD. Otherwise known as ‘USOPs, the two and half day course aims to immerse participants in the complexities of disaster response and experience scenarios from real deployments. ShelterBox Australia CEO, Mike Greenslade said, “USOPs is a great opportunity for our volunteers and donors to get some hands experience with some the aid we deploy and gain an insight into the workings of a disaster relief deployment. We plan to run similar courses in the future at different locations around the country so that we can cater for our volunteer and donor base.”

If you’re running in the event and want to raise even more money for ShelterBox, why not create your own fundraising page at: Create Your Own Page

Have you held a successful fundraising event or are you planning one? Please send me the details, including images, for inclusion in the next newsletter and promotion on the ShelterBox Australia Blog at:

mike.greenslade@shelterbox.org.au
 

 

Guljar talks to ShelterBox – a Rohingya family’s dramatic story

Guljar talks to ShelterBox – a Rohingya family’s scramble over mountains and rivers to reach a small plot of safety. Bamboo and black plastic, extreme heat and rain. ‘A ticking time bomb for disease.’

Jimmy_Bangladesh_RohingyaCrisis_2017_21

Jimmy Griffith, a ShelterBox response volunteer from New Zealand, talks through a translator to Guljar and her family about the Rohingya exodus from Myanmar. It has been an arduous journey, carrying a baby, and just boiled rice for food. They have fled violence, but are far from secure. 

Guljar is forty years old. A widow for five years, she is bringing up her two daughters aged 15 & 12, and her son aged 9, alone. Her 15 year old daughter has a baby, just 18 months old.

In Myanmar they had a home and a small farm with a few animals. Life was good for them. Until they became increasingly concerned for their own safety, and felt they should leave.

Rohing

Guljar is talking to ShelterBox’s Jimmy Griffith, in the overcramped mud bowl that is now her family’s sanctuary in Bangladesh. She and her family are among half a million Rohingya who have fled in fear across the border to Bangladesh. ShelterBox,  experts in emergency shelter and international disaster relief, are working to help what has been described as a ‘monumental’ influx of desperate and exhausted people.

Guljar tells Jimmy, ‘We decided to leave. At midnight we cooked up all the rice we had along with some pickle. We left in the early hours of the morning under the cover of darkness.’

‘We headed for the mountains. We couldn’t take the roads as we knew this could lead to trouble.’ Guljar explained that travelling in large groups of 20,000 to 30,000 gave them safety in numbers. ‘If you were in a small group you would probably be attacked.’

It took them three days of trudging, carrying a small child, for this family of five to scale the mountain. This is open wild country, and there were no tracks to follow. Guljar notes the kindness of strangers. ‘As we were running out of food, other people supported us if they could, and as we passed houses some of these people would help as well. We found a place in the river where we could cross that wasn’t too deep.’

SB_Bangladesh_RohingyaCrisis_2017_23

After spending days and nights out in the open they arrived at one of the Bangladesh camps that have sprung up in the Cox’s Bazar region. Guljar, her girls, son and grand-daughter were given a small 3m by 5m plot of land by the Bangladesh government. They were also given flimsy black plastic sheeting, bamboo poles and rope so they could make a shelter.

‘We are so grateful for everything we are given. Unfortunately there are no trees around which makes it very hot under the black plastic (it can be 33-36 degrees in the sun). Also when it rains they leak.’

Most of these plots are on terraces above rice paddy fields. When it rains the ground turns to ankle-deep mud, so families stay inside their shelters, cramped and very hot. Everyone is worried because the cyclone season is coming soon, which threatens both the flimsy shelters and the terraces they are pitched on.

-SB_Bangladesh_RohingyaCrisis_2017_30

ShelterBox is working with a cluster of other non-governmental organisations on a co-ordinated aid programme, but the numbers needing help are challenging, and at times overwhelming. We have an experienced team in Cox’s Bazar working hard with local Rotary contacts and partners to help as many vulnerable families as possible. These families left their homes with nothing and we know that they desperately need shelter, lighting, and water.

Tarpaulins and ropes will help shelter families from the heavy rain and harsh sun, blankets will bring comfort and warmth at night, solar lights will help families feel a little safer in the dark, and water carriers will help keep water clean. ShelterBox has just signed its first agreement to import sufficient of these to support 4,000 Rohingya households.

Jimmy Griffith says, ‘Our tarpaulins and fixings are heavy-duty, and have been used in the worst weather conditions in all climates. But our resources and manpower are stretched, with ShelterBox responses continuing elsewhere in Bangladesh after vast floods, in the Caribbean after the hurricanes, and in Africa, Syria and Iraq with continuing conflict. So I’m grateful to all our generous supporters worldwide.’

‘As I look around and I see thousands of shelters everywhere – just imagine, if I was to take my home town of Nelson in New Zealand, just 60,000 people, and times it by ten, and just put everybody together in a small space with no toilets or running water. Also add in extreme heat and rain which causes more hardship. Now you have a ticking time bomb for disease. Now you can imagine some of the challenges we face in the Rohingya camps.’

You can help families like Guljar’s and other displaced by conflict and disaster by donating here: PLEASE DONATE

Life on the edge – ShelterBox team reports from Bangladesh’s Rohingya border camps

Over half a million Rohingya people face new perils in the makeshift camps in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh as the coming cyclone season threatens to wash away the flimsy plastic shelters. 

Imagine the entire population of a city the size of the Gold Coast crammed into a little over three square miles. This is the result of over half a million Rohingya people – more than half of them children, thousands separated from their parents – arriving in Bangladesh by foot or by river crossing from Myanmar.

More than 500,000 Rohingya are now settling in makeshift and spontaneous camps in the Cox’s Bazar area. Poignantly, from these vantage points many of them are now able to see their former home villages burning in the distance across the border.

ShelterBox response volunteer from Gloucestershire UK, Liz Odell, says, Conditions are dire, with most people living in small shelters made of flimsy black plastic sheeting and bamboo poles. There is little space between the shelters, and the paths between them are a congealing soup of oozing mud. Most of the inhabitants have no possessions and only the clothes that they were wearing when they fled from their villages in Rakhine state. Many are traumatised by their experiences and the loss of loved ones.

Liz also worries that the sites they are using, on terraces high above rice paddy fields, will be prone to collapse as the cyclone season fast approaches. Liz says, Much of the area around the camps is rice paddies – they are under water so the Rohingyas are forced to build their shelters on the precipitous slopes of the surrounding hills. Once the cyclone season arrives, these terraces are likely to collapse.’

ShelterBox, an international disaster relief agency specialising in emergency shelter for families displaced by conflict and natural disasters, is making arrangements to bring in aid including portable solar lighting, which has helped reduce gender-based violence in refugee camps worldwide. Tools and tarps will help with waterproof shelter construction, and to bring basic comfort to families without any possessions ShelterBox is also aiming to bring in blankets. ShelterBox teams had arrived in Bangladesh in response to the worst flooding for decades, but now find themselves responding to a human flood as well.

Liz and her colleague Jimmy Griffith from Nelson, New Zealand have visited the two largest camps, Kutupalong and Balukhali. Here teams of aid workers are working round the clock to install water tanks, wells, latrines, medical facilities (including a 95-bed field hospital) and child friendly spaces.

But Liz says it is a race against time. ‘The influx has been so monumental and so fast that the facilities become overwhelmed as fast as they are built. One water and sanitation health worker told us that as fast as they dig latrines, they are overflowing and they don’t yet have a system for disposing of the faecal sludge. Imagine the smell. On a positive note, the weather has been dry the last few days and the knee-deep mud is beginning to dry up. The World Health Organisation are in a race against time to administer 300,000 cholera vaccinations before the inevitable outbreak of the disease.’

Mohammed, Hannah and Nurusaffa’s story

Liz and Jimmy visited a camp at Unchiprang, a spontaneous settlement which houses a relatively few 28,000 people, yet the sea of black plastic shelters still stretches as far as the eye can see. Liz says ‘We met some of the survivors who settled here a couple of weeks ago, and asked them to tell us a little about themselves.’

Shakier Mohammed and his wife Hanna are sharing a small shelter with his sister, Nurusaffa, and her two sons aged 8 and 12 years. Hanna is 5 months pregnant. Nurusaffa’s husband was killed, and their house was set on fire before she managed to flee with her two sons. It took them three hours on foot to reach the border in temperatures of 36 degrees centigrade, and then another 2½ hours by boat to cross the River Naf which forms the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh. I asked her what possessions she brought with her and she said ‘nothing’. I asked what she needed and she said ‘food, blankets, water carrier.’

Most of the Rohingya want to return home but at this time, that seems a remote possibility.’

‘There was a bright spot in the middle of the sea of mud and black plastic: a child friendly space. This was an airy, open-sided shelter with colourful floor mats, balloons and decorations. There was space for up to 200 children with a toy corner, an art corner, a library and areas for music and adolescents. The children have dedicated latrines, and are fed water and biscuits while they are there. The children were sat in a square, singing songs. It was gut wrenchingly poignant – the children’s ability to have fun despite all they have been through, given the right support and surroundings.’

‘ShelterBox can’t help everyone. We are a small cog in a large wheel here, but we can make a difference to the lives of at least 4,000 families.’

To make a donation, please click here: 

DONATE NOW

ShelterBox working closely with Rotary in the Caribbean following Hurricane Irma

Irma caused devastation on the British Virgin Islands (image courtesy VI Free Press)

Hurricane Irma made landfall on northeast Caribbean islands during the early hours of 6 September, affecting Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, Cuba, St Barthélemy, St. Martin, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, US Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos. Two million people were exposed to winds in excess of 120 km/h.

Livelihoods, housing and infrastructure in the British Virgin Islands, St. Martin, the US Virgin Islands, and Turks and Caicos have been severely affected. 70%-90% of infrastructure has been destroyed on Anguila and Barbuda. 1,600 Barbudans were evacuated to Antigua. 34,000 people have been displaced in Dominican Republic and Haiti alone.

As our Response Teams in the Caribbean monitor the incoming Hurricane Maria and Tropical Storm Lee, here’s an update of our activities so far:

Antigua and St Kitts and Nevis: 500 ShelterKits have been shipped from Panama with the Red Cross National Societies. 300 ShelterKits are now in Antigua and the remaining 200 have arrived in St Kitts and Nevis. A team is in Antigua and will begin to oversee assessments and form distribution and monitoring plans, once the current storms have  tracked through. The team is in close liaison with Rotarians from District 7030 on Antigua.

British Virgin Islands: Team has arrived in Antigua and is currently in hibernation protocol until the next storms pass. ShelterBoxes have arrived in Tortola awaiting the team’s arrival (Transport provided by Virgin Atlantic).  The team is liaising, through the District 7020 Disaster Committee, with local Rotarians to work together as assessments are undertaken by team. See attached photo of ShelterBoxes arriving on island.  

Past President Ryan Geluk of the Rotary Club of Road Town hard at work as ShelterBox hits the ground in the British Virgin Islands.

 

Dominican Republic: There is an identified gap in emergency shelter so we have signed an agreement to partner with Habitat for Humanity and we’re hoping to provide another 500 ShelterKits from Panama, along with training on how to use them. Habitat for Humanity oversee recovery efforts beyond this emergency phase, ensuring maximum benefit for the families we are helping. A ShelterBox Response Team is due to arrive next week (weather dependent) and has reached out to Rotary District 4060 in advance of their arrival.

 

Barbados: A Response team is in Barbados to work in the coordination hub there (which includes organisations like DHL Disaster Response Team, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency). We have established a ShelterBox hub on Barbados, to work on the complex logistics of getting aid to the families who desperately need it.  The Team is focused on coordinating safety for teams in the region due to inbound storms, as well as logistics and onward transport for aid, given current access constraints and high demand.

The team is also considering further potential response locations and capacity across the region – resources permitting.

For up to date information, keep an eye on our Facebook page and Twitter feed.