ShelterBox Team in Kenya Following Severe Floods

‘Access to affected communities is challenging’ – ShelterBox team in Kenya to assess shelter needs after major flooding and a burst dam

Flooding in Kenya has so far claimed 170 lives. Last week a dam in the Rift Valley burst unleashing reservoir waters that careered into two villages killing more than 50 people. ShelterBox is now in Kenya to see if it can help, as an estimated 300,000 people have now been forced from their homes.

Across Kenya heavy rain and landslides have caused over a quarter of a million people to leave their homes. Some in remote communities needed rescuing by helicopter.

A dam burst on a commercial flower farm in Kenya’s Rift Valley has killed more than 50 people in two villages, half of them children. The reservoir, situated on top of a hill 120 miles from Nairobi, gave way a week ago today as nearby residents were sitting down to their evening meals. The deluge swept away powerlines, homes and buildings, including a primary school. The search through mud for bodies is still continuing.

International disaster relief agency ShelterBox is expert in providing emergency shelter for displaced communities, and can supply essential items such as solar lighting where power is down, tools and tarpaulins for rebuilding, and water filtration where there are fears of water-borne disease.

ShelterBox Operations Coordinator Rachel Harvey is currently in Nairobi, and says, ‘The rains this year have been heavy and protracted. The cumulative impact on roads and other infrastructure has been severe which makes access to affected communities challenging. Even when the flood waters recede the damage will take time to repair.’   

Two ShelterBox response volunteers flew out to Kenya yesterday to talk to government agencies and the aid community to see whether there is a role for ShelterBox in this ongoing disaster response. Operations Coordinator Jo Arponen says, ‘Initially it seemed the local authorities and the Kenyan Red Cross had enough resources to manage the flooding situation. But now we are hearing that stocks of high quality shelter materials are running low. So our team will be working out what is needed where and how long it might take to get ShelterBox aid into the country. We need to make sure that any aid we send is appropriate and timely.’

ShelterBox has responded in Kenya several times over the years, including in 2010 to flooding in the Turkana region, to widespread drought in 2011/12 when 7,000 tents were supplied, and to help families fleeing conflict in neighbouring countries in 2006 and post-election violence in 2008.

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ShelterBox establishes its first operations base outside the UK in time for typhoons in Philippines

New Philippines base in the path of Typhoon Alley has ‘already improved our ability to respond to this season’s storms’

Disaster relief agency ShelterBox set up its new operations base in the Philippines in time for tropical storms Kai Tak and Tembin.

A team from ShelterBox has been working with the Philippines Government and the Rotary Club of Biliran Island, focusing on the municipalities of Caibiran, Almeria, Naval and Biliran which suffered serious flooding, mudslides and loss of homes and livelihoods when two months of rainfall fell within two days. ShelterBox aid distributions have been carried out on the island of Biliran, providing families with vital weather-resilient tents, shelter kits for waterproofing damaged properties, and other desperately needed items including solar lights, water carriers, blankets and mosquito nets.

ShelterBox and Rotary worked together to help those affected by Tropical Storms Kai Tak and Tembin

The more than 7,000 islands of the Philippines sit right in the firing line of one of the world’s most deadly storm systems, known by meteorologists as ‘Typhoon Alley’. On average, ShelterBox responds to disasters here around twice a year and it is intended that the new office ‘ShelterBox Operations Philippines’ sited at Cebu, the first of its kind for the UK-based organisation, will help get vital emergency shelter to vulnerable families even more quickly.

Dave Ray, an experienced member of the UK-based Operations team, has recently returned from Biliran Island, and says, ‘Since Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 the Philippine Government has strongly favoured agencies that are registered and sited in the Philippines, as well as those sourcing their aid from within the country. ShelterBox Operations Philippines, with its aid supplies for 1,000 to 2,000 families, has already improved our ability to respond to this season’s storms, and when it is fully staffed and operational later this year its local expertise will make us even more efficient and effective.’

‘Of course, it was always likely we would be called into action before our new office was fully open. The pre-positioned aid items and local contacts were already there, and our response team was on the ground with Rotary partners able to act faster because of our new in-country status. A new Philippines project Office Development Manager has also joined the organisation recently.’

Shelterbox camp at Biliran

ShelterBox is a UK-based international disaster relief charity specialising in emergency shelter.,Since its start in 2000 it has helped more than 1.1 million people worldwide rebuild their lives, and it has fundraising affiliates cross the world. However, whilst ShelterBox pre-positions aid in storage hubs such as Panama, Dubai and Malaysia, all operational activity including deploying aid and volunteers to disasters zones has always been coordinated from the UK headquarters in Truro.

ShelterBox has responded to catastrophes in the Philippines more frequently than to any other country in the world – 24 times in the last 13 years. Located on the island of Cebu, one of the areas worst hit by the record-breaking Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, ShelterBox Operations Philippines already stores enough shelter items to help around 2,000 families, with capacity for far more in the future.

ShelterBox Chief Executive, Chris Warham says,‘This is a first for ShelterBox, and a huge achievement. It shows ShelterBox’s flexible and agile model at work. We have assessed and understood the situation of some of the most vulnerable communities in the world, and come up with a different approach to make sure we are best placed to help quickly whenever disaster strikes. As a charity with limited resources, having teams and aid ready where and when they are needed will be more efficient, which is also an absolute priority for us.’

Aid is deployed by any means necessary. “Whatever it takes”

ShelterBox Operations Philippines was created by working closely with local Rotary groups. ShelterBox is Rotary International’s official Project Partner in disaster relief, and together they form one of the world’s most effective humanitarian collaborations, with many Rotarians around the world volunteering and raising money for ShelterBox. The fully trained team for the new base will be in position soon, a new arm of the HQ Operations staff in the UK.

Meteorologists refer to the West Pacific as ‘Typhoon Alley’ with good reason. Tropical storms gather out at sea with almost no landfall to slow them down before they hit South East Asia. Between 2000 and 2014, 41 super typhoons were recorded there. That’s almost four times as many as are generated in the Atlantic.

Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013, the deadliest typhoon on record killing 6,300 people, triggered major changes in how the Philippines responds to its constant barrage of tropical storms. The Philippine Government now requests international assistance less often, limiting tax-free importing. They also now strongly favour agencies that are registered and sited in the Philippines, as well as those locating their aid from within the country.

You can support those affected by disaster by donating here: ShelterBox Australia

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

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.’

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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.’

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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.

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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.’

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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.

Water filters to combat cholera – ShelterBox aid in Somaliland helps families facing drought and disease

Three years of drought in the African state of Somaliland has now left it in the grip of a cholera epidemic caused by dwindling and polluted water supplies. ShelterBox has been distributing water filters and carriers, as well as shelter materials to its nomadic population

Like much of the horn of Africa, Somaliland is enduring failing crops, a parched landscape, and now the scourge of cholera as water sources are contaminated by waste and rotting animal carcasses.

But one thing it doesn’t share with its neighbours is conflict – Somaliland is a peaceful agricultural republic. Most of its 4.5 million people make their living driving cattle in a constant search for water and fertile grazing land. Now, with more than half their livestock wiped out by the unprecedented three-year drought, people drink whatever water they can find.

ShelterBox Operations Coordinator Dave Raybould has just returned to Somaliland. He says, ‘This will be ShelterBox’s third deployment to Somaliland in as many months, and since we were last there the focus has moved from drought to disease, though the two are interconnected.’

‘The search for water is bringing the nomadic rural dwellers into the towns, where overburdened water sources are becoming a source of cholera. Cholera is an entirely treatable disease contracted through polluted and stagnant water, but with some areas reporting 500 cases a day Somaliland’s health resources are overstretched. Among ShelterBox’s aid package is the ‘thirst aid’ water filter, which rapidly makes dirty water safe to drink, a great help in halting the spread of waterborne disease.’

Cholera has not been seen in developed countries for over a century. Without treatment those infected quickly become dehydrated, but the condition can easily be treated using an oral rehydration sachet.

Thirst Aid Station water filters remove dangerous bacteria and viruses from water, making it safe to drink.

Dave says that ShelterBox has already distributed water filters and water carriers to hundreds of families, and their current visit will discuss a continuing aid programme via in-country partners ActionAid. The familiar green ShelterBoxes used in Somaliland contain the water kit, plus tarpaulins, tools, cooking utensils, solar lights, mosquito nets, blankets and groundsheets.

Adapted ShelterBoxes, containing tarpaulins instead of tents are distributed in Somaliland

Dave explains, ‘The standard ShelterBox dome tent is not needed in Somaliland as their traditional nomadic dwellings are made from found and recycled materials stretched over tree branch frames. So the tarpaulins we supply add to the resilience of these conventional shelters.’

ShelterBox is pleased to report that families who have already received its aid have found all of the contents instantly useful and practical.

Dave adds, ‘Somaliland was already struggling with drought and food insecurity, and the outbreak of cholera is an added blow. We will do all we can to help them with their thirst, with the battle against disease, and with their need for shelter.’

To help those affected by drought and natural disaster PLEASE DONATE