As Mosul is retaken, ShelterBox stands by to help families that survived the epic battle.

Mosul1As nine months of bloody battle end in the routing of Islamic State resistance, aid agencies, including ShelterBox are standing by ready to support families who were trapped in a destroyed city

The long wait is over. Military reports indicate that the final enclaves of IS resistance in Mosul are now in retreat, signalling the end of the largest and longest urban battle anywhere on the earth since World War 2.

It is three years almost to the day that IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a Caliphate in the Iraqi city of Mosul, and since last October the UN estimates that 855,000 people have fled the city.

Emergency shelter experts, ShelterBox and its partner aid agencies, most based in the city of Erbil 50 miles from Mosul, have faced huge challenges in responding to one of the world’s most unpredictable sieges – not knowing when people would flee, in what numbers, and in which direction. Displacement camps in the area have long been over capacity, so ShelterBox has tailored much of its aid to be highly portable, meeting the needs of families on the move in this hostile environment.

There are reports that as many as 100,000 people remain in Mosul, no longer held under IS control as human shields, but undoubtedly traumatised from years of warfare, starvation, and living without power, healthcare or fresh water. Those civilians who managed to escape have been rescued, hungry and severely shell-shocked. How many remain huddling in bombed-out buildings in daytime temperatures of 50° daytime is unknown.

Near Mosul, ShelterBox has worked with partners ACTED to:

  • Support 8,000 households / 40,000 individuals since the start of the offensive in October 2016 (5,682 households have been sheltered, additional households received individual items).
  • We have around 3,000 kits standing by now to be distributed when needed.
  • Our aid offer is adjusted with the changing seasons. Iraq is subject to extremes of temperature, over 50° c in summer, and below freezing in winter.

 

A ShelterBox team is in Erbil now making plans to respond to whatever displacement is triggered by the military endgame. Operations Coordinator Sam Hewett says, Although we have prepared for this stage over many months, it is still unpredictable in size and scale. We don’t yet know exactly how many tens of thousands remain in Mosul, what their needs are, and whether they can be met by staying in Mosul. The Old City has suffered extensive damage, with little power or water infrastructure surviving. While relative peace is to be welcomed, we are also concerned about underlying tensions in the region and what they mean for longer-term stability.

ShelterBox and its partners will have to act quickly but cautiously in responding to this latest phase in a very long story.’  

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Meanwhile ShelterBox continues its five-year intervention in Syria, where the city of Raqqa is the focus of a final military offensive. ShelterBox is not able to act here directly with teams on the ground because of the volatile and dangerous security environment, working instead through implementing partners such as Hand in Hand for Syria and ReliefAid. Other partners cannot be named for security reasons.

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ShelterBox has been responding to this conflict since 2012, providing shelter and lifesaving items to households in neighbouring countries Jordan (2012, 2013), Iraq (2013-2017) and Lebanon (2012, 2013) and to families transiting through the Greek islands (2015). In Syria itself a total of 24,404 households have been supported. Now ShelterBox is gearing up for its biggest ever single aid push into Syria. Details of locations and routes cannot be given because ShelterBox must do all it can to protect its people and its partners.

In 2016 across Iraq and Syria ShelterBox aid reached an estimated 230,000 people.

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ShelterBox sends team to Sri Lanka after worst monsoon flooding and mudslides since 2003 

 

Half a million people affected, around 85,000 made homeless. Disaster relief shelter experts, ShelterBox respond to Sri Lankan Government’s call for aid

International disaster relief charity, ShelterBox is sending a team to Sri Lanka today (1st June, 2017) to assess the need for the charity’s specialist aid – including sturdy weatherproof tents, emergency lighting, mosquito nets, and water filtration and carriers.

The team will be re-establishing partnerships with the Sri Lankan Government, colleague charities and local Rotary Clubs in response to the Sri Lankan government’s appeal to the United Nations for help with rescue and relief. The shelter experts responded to monsoon flooding and mudslides in Sri Lanka at this time last year, meaning they have developed the best possible experience in how to deal with flooding on the island and will be working with partners and the Sri Lanka government to share their expertise.

Sri Lankan residents walk through floodwaters in Kaduwela, Colombo. © Lakruwan Wanniarachchi: AFP

ShelterBox Operations Team Lead, James Luxton said, ‘This is déjà vu on a horrifying scale. I was with our team last year and I’m flying tomorrow again to meet up with our in-country contacts to carry out urgent assessments to help local families and communities.’

‘Last year’s response has given us solid experience of how best to level and drain sites so tents can be safely pitched. But the conditions are bad, monsoon rains are still falling, and many rivers are still overflowing. We know from monitoring our aid provision last year what will work best, and we’ll be offering that expertise to the Sri Lanka authorities, with whom we already have a good working relationship.’

In this latest monsoon tragedy the island’s emergency services are currently dealing with the rescue phase, and many people are housed in temporary shelters away from the flood zones. Sri Lanka’s Disaster Management Centre (DMC) warns that the death toll may rise as reports come in from outlying areas. But when the floodwaters recede there could be a need for temporary shelter of the kind provided by ShelterBox.

SRT volunteer, Derek Locke (USA) instructs Sri Lanakan soldiers on erecting a ShelterBox tent

SRT volunteer, Derek Locke (USA) instructs Sri Lanakan soldiers on erecting a ShelterBox tent during our deployment in 2016

 

Sri Lanka is particularly vulnerable to this ‘moving earth’ mudslide phenomenon, having cleared land over decades to grow export crops such as tea and rubber. When the rains fall this deforested landscape can quickly become a torrent of mud with collapsing hillsides.

In 2016, ShelterBox provided tents and other aid to hundreds of families across six different camps. The work was complex because land had to be levelled and drained before it could be used safely for pitches, ensuring occupants wouldn’t be at risk from further storms and flooding. ShelterBox teams worked in partnership with the Rotary Club of Capital City in Colombo, who provided invaluable in-country local knowledge from a network of Rotarians across the island, and with the International Organisation for Migration and World Vision.

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ShelterKits distributed in Mozambique – Australian volunteer assists in assessment and training

Image of shelterkits being loaded in a warehouse in Mozambique

After Cyclone Dineo – ShelterBox is in Africa helping to re-home thousands after Mozambique’s storm damage and flooding

Cyclone Dineo struck the southern African country of Mozambique on 15 February. Its torrential rain and damaging winds destroyed 20,000 homes and affected 130,000 people.International disaster relief agency ShelterBox has been working with the Red Cross to help communities rebuild.

image of a collapsed dwelling

The cyclone caused extensive damage over a widespread area

The South West Indian Ocean brews up a cyclone season every year, and in recent months there have been five tropical storms, with three intensifying into cyclones. Our photos show clear evidence of the destructive power of Dineo, and how ShelterBox and Red Cross response teams are taking aid to hard-hit areas such as Massinga and Morrumbene.

Dineo was the first tropical cyclone to hit the coast of Mozambique since 2008. 200 mm of rain fell in the province of Inhambane, at least seven people were killed, including a child crushed by a falling tree in Massinga. After the storm abated an estimated 130,000 people were in need of assistance.

South Australian Response team member, Megan Graham

Australian ShelterBox Response Team volunteer, Megan Graham was part of the second team in country, helping to assess needs and arrange customs clearance. Megan said,

The first team had performed a needs assessment in the area and determined that ShelterBox aid in the form of Shelter Kits was appropriate.  1,000 Shelter Kits and 2,000 mosquito nets were already identified to be sent to Mozambique.  My month in Mozambique was split between the capital, Maputo and Inhambane city.  The affected area was vast and the vulnerable families very spread out, we spent some time with our partners Red Cross to visit some of the potential beneficiaries and see the damage caused by Cyclone Dineo.  To identify the vulnerable families to receive the 1,000 Shelter Kits we needed to utilise the services of the local Red Cross Volunteers, we spent some days training them on the necessary data collection to ensure the most vulnerable were to receive the aid.  Whilst I was in the Inhambane area with a team working on the beneficiary collection a separate team was based in Maputo working on expediting Tax Exemption so that the aid could be flown in to the country.”

ShelterKits distribution in the filed

ShelterKits and other essential items were distributed with the help of the Red Cross

The aid that fitted the needs of the population best was ShelterKits containing materials to rebuild or repair basic dwellings. Women are seen carrying the kits on their heads, often with infants in arms and toddlers at their feet.

Response team member, Steven Tonkinson (USA) says,‘The people we have been distributing to are clearly among the most vulnerable in their communities. We have seen elderly men and women, people with severe physical disabilities, mothers with infants and orphaned children. It’s reassuring to know that our aid is going to those who need it most.’ 

Demonstrations of how to use the kit contents – tarpaulins, tools and fixings – were given to households. After consulting the local community, ShelterBox also included machetes, a widely used tool in Mozambique, and mosquito nets to avoid the scourge of malaria. The Machetes were transported safely to Mozambique in our familiar green boxes.

This careful selection of aid will mean people can rebuild their lives and livelihoods, and protect themselves from the weather.

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Displaced families caught between a rock and hard place in Syria

ShelterBox partners, Hand In Hand For Syria continue to reach desperate families displaced by the conflict in Syria. In recent days they have been trucking in supplies to urban collective centres that are housing families who quit the mountain town of Madaya, scene of the notorious ‘starvation siege’ which saw around 40,000 residents trapped by a military stand-off. For over a year they lived only on meagre rations of rice delivered in occasional aid convoys. When the siege broke last October children and the elderly were showing the effects of famine and could barely walk straight. Months without meat or milk had seen many making soup out of grass in the search for nutrition.

Now, although they are being fed and are relatively safe, they find themselves pawns in a relocation deal between rebels and the government. Hand in Hand aid workers have been shipping in ShelterBox mattresses, cooking equipment, water carriers, blankets and other basic items to families in the appointed collective centres, and to those staying nearby with friends and relatives or with host families.

Photos show the desperate clamour for this aid as people queue, some making precarious onward journeys overloading bikes and vans.

Another aid drop in recent days has seen tents distributed to a timeworn displacement camp in Idlib Governorate. The climate of extreme temperatures takes its toll on canvas, and many of these threadbare tents have standing in the open for years. ShelterBox and Hand in Hand have now arranged for some to be replaced. 

 

ShelterBox Operations Coordinator Sam Hewett says, ‘79 tents were distributed to replace broken tents. I don’t know how long they’d been living there – it varies between a few months to years. The Hand in Hand team has a network, either they are asked directly by a local council, or the shelter aid cluster notifies them. Then HiH do an assessment and confirm exact numbers, and decide whether it is appropriate to respond.’

You can help those displaced in Syria and other countries by donating here:

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Colombia landslides – ShelterBox has aid in-country and a team in neighbouring Peru

 

As the flood-stricken Colombian city of Mocoa counts its dead and searches for hundreds missing after frightening mudslides, UK disaster relief charity ShelterBox has been invited by the Red Cross to help in the aftermath of this latest South American flood disaster

A plaintive message was posted on ShelterBox’s Facebook site today. It was from Gloria Cajavilca (right), Secretary of the Rotary Club of Bogota DC in Colombia. She wrote, ‘I’d like to know how we can bring ShelterBox to Mocoa, which yesterday suffered a major collapse in which there are many victims.’  

Gloria is referring to torrential rains that brought a sudden onslaught of water, mud, trees and rocks to the city of Mocoa in South West Colombia on Friday night and Saturday morning. Several rivers overflowed, and although warnings were sounded many people failed to hear them, or have time to get out of danger. Colombia’s director of the National Disaster Risk Management Unit told news agencies that a third of the region’s expected monthly rain fell during the night.

With search and rescue underway, there is no certainty yet on the number of casualties in this city of 350,000 people, but early estimates range from 200 to 400. 1,100 soldiers and police are involved in the relief effort. Video footage from the city shows residents crying over a list of missing children, along with their ages, pinned to a family welfare centre.

International disaster relief agency ShelterBox is in touch with its Colombia contacts, and has shelter aid already stored in the country. It also has a team currently in neighbouring Peru, monitoring shelter need after flooding since 13 March killed an estimated 78, demolished over 100,000 homes, washed out bridges, and affected more than 640,000 people along Peru’s northern coastal strip.

ShelterBox Operations Co-ordinator Ayeasia Macintyre says, We are still waiting on data to be released from Mocoa about how many people have been displaced, but for the time being the priority has to be on search and rescue.’ 

We have approached our in-country contacts and colleague agencies from previous responses in Colombia to see if they can provide us with any information on the most urgent needs, and any  emerging shelter strategy for people made homeless following this tragedy. The Red Cross has already asked ShelterBox for assistance, so we are looking to mobilise a team.’

As is often the case in South American natural disasters, one of our main lines of contact is with Rotarians who can provide eyewitness information and local knowledge. One of our Peru response team will also meet a Colombian associate in Lima this evening to get an update.’

As well as its current assessment role in Peru, ShelterBox also spent many months last year providing equipment and rebuilding kits to people in the coastal communities of neighbouring Ecuador affected by the 7.8 earthquake that struck Ecuador almost a year ago. From 2009 through to 2011 ShelterBox responded to flooding in Colombia, earning praise from the country’s President.

Ayeasia Macintyre adds, We are well placed to offer emergency shelter help, but know that Colombian officials are understandably concentrating on a massive relief operation and search for survivors at present.’

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Praying for rain, searching for pasture – the nomadic people of parched Somaliland.

A ShelterBox team is there now, discussing aid possibilities as drought threatens millions.

Somaliland is a self-declared state on the Horn of Africa. Diplomatically isolated, it is now facing famine as livestock perish after three years of poor pasture. A ShelterBox team is in Hargeisa talking to aid colleagues about what, if anything, can avert a humanitarian disaster

The people of Somaliland are looking anxiously to the skies. In the next few weeks seasonal rains known locally as ‘Gu’ might just save them from impending famine. But if the rains fail they will almost certainly lose their remaining livestock, on which they rely entirely for food and income.

The Gu rainy season in April is the main crop season in Somaliland. In the usual cycle it brings three quarters of the area’s annual rainfall. But for the last three years this corner of Africa has experienced the worst growing seasons on record. No rain means no pasture for the flocks and herds, which means nothing for people to eat or sell. Already the dehydrated carcasses of cattle, sheep and goats litter the landscape.   

Those still alive are being driven by their owners ever further off the usual routes in a desperate search for water and pasture. Somaliland has a population of 3 million, half of whom are nomads. Nomad life depends on livestock, and the continual search for grazing land. Already up to 70% of livestock have perished in some areas.

Now, with thirst and malnutrition a daily threat, families are becoming even more widely displaced.  Complicating the matter further, men and older sons usually head off first into the desert to seek pasture, sometimes by foot, sometimes in livestock trucks. This leaves women and children behind in households facing dire conditions. 

International emergency shelter experts ShelterBox are in the city of Hargeisa talking to the aid community and government officials about the scale of the problem. The people of Somaliland will need a mix of aid in the form of water, food, medicines and shelter.

Team leader James Luxton says, ‘Somaliland is distinctive in many ways. It has the advantage of being relatively peaceful, with no ongoing conflict as seen in neighbouring territories. And family and community really matters here. Displacement patterns are driven by clan, tribe and sub-tribe affiliations, so nomads displaced from one area will go to fellow clan or tribe members in another area.’

‘So, many communities are hosting the displaced, and in this extreme situation are becoming overwhelmed. There are some government-run camps, but they are little more than basic hubs providing water, food and hygiene items. We are visiting one such camp today.’

‘But it is the widely and thinly scattered nomadic population, constantly on the move, that brings the greatest challenges. Simply finding those in greatest need amid this vast open territory will be a task. We are talking to all the relevant players, aid agencies and government, and will then decide what help ShelterBox is able to offer, and where.’

The families in peril are a mix of internally displaced Somalilanders, and those fleeing famine and conflict from Yemen, Djibouti and Ethiopia. The ShelterBox team has so far met with the Somaliland Government’s Ministry of Resettlement, Rehabilitation & Reconstruction, with shelter and refugee aid agencies, and with various United Nations organisations.

To help those in need in Somaliland and other countries, please DONATE HERE

 

After Aleppo – Aid chief says, ‘People have escaped one hell only to be caught in another.’

Syrian baby wrapped in blankets

©ReliefAid

ShelterBox and its partners are helping displaced families cope with the grim realities of life under canvas, in the cold and mud, with only basic amenities. These battle-weary people, formerly residents of a thriving city, now need every kind of aid imaginable – even lighting, children’s clothes, and sewing kits.

We all breathed a sigh when we saw families being bused out of Aleppo just before Christmas. For them, at least, the fear of daily thirst, starvation and bombings was over. But now aid workers are finding that displacement is bringing other severe hardships.

Syrian refugee children

©ReliefAid

Farid, a Syrian staff member with ShelterBox partner ReliefAid, says, ‘I am deeply shocked by the living conditions of the camps where Aleppo families are now living. Even coming from East Aleppo where the destruction was huge and the humanitarian situation dire, the situation in the camps is worse. I have not seen anything like this before. No toilets, no water, mud everywhere.’

It takes a lot to shock aid workers in Syria, particularly former residents of Aleppo. Farid and his ReliefAid colleagues had seen their office bombed, and one of their team gunned down as he worked on a rooftop. But now, having quit their home city, razed to the ground by years of warfare, they have followed their neighbours into dozens of makeshift displacement camps dotted across the desert.

True, they are now out of the line of fire. But in every other way conditions could hardly be more harsh. Mike Seawright, Founder and Executive Director of ReliefAid, has worked in partnership with UK-based ShelterBox throughout the Syrian civil war, distributing its aid in some of the most dangerous territory on earth. Mike says, ‘People forced from their homes in Aleppo City are now having to live in freezing conditions surrounded by mud and water.’

‘They are joining families who have been living under the intense heat of summer and freezing winter conditions, including snow and ice, for five seasons. People have escaped one hell only to be caught in another.’

‘Families are now living in tents, having lost loved ones, with no idea how they will keep themselves warm at night. Without our collective support people will literally not survive.’

image of displacement camp in Syria

©ReliefAid

The ReliefAid team and ShelterBox are now gearing up to provide more aid to Syria’s displacement camps throughout March. They are concentrating on settlements in Idlib Governorate, particularly fifteen informal camps. The families here have been displaced from Aleppo over months, including in December’s exodus, and from areas in the south of the country.

Mike adds, ‘As you can see from our photos living conditions are very difficult. These smaller informal camps have been largely ignored as aid organisations look to provide assistance to sites that are easier to access and allow faster distribution. Families in these informal camps have significant needs which our next distribution is looking to address.’

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©ReliefAid

ShelterBox is providing 5,000 blankets and mattresses to help combat the cold, 4,000 sets of children’s clothing, and 4,000 pairs of jeans and jumpers. 1,000 tarpaulins are included for waterproofing tents and buildings, and 4,000 20 litre water carriers. Then there are the less expected items – solar lamps for safety in the dark desert nights, hammers and fixings, duct tape and rope.   

Without the financial means to purchase new clothing and tents, repairing them is an essential task in camp life. So the inclusion of 1,000 sewing kits means that families can make their precious materials last as long as possible.

ShelterBox’s Sam Hewett says, ‘Wherever you look in this region displaced families are living threadbare existences in uncomfortable conditions. These aid items bring some relief, particularly to the vulnerable, the young, the elderly. We will continue to source partnerships and aid routes that can find them, whether they have settled in large camps or small ad hoc encampments.’

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