At last, heartwarming photos of Aleppo’s children receiving ShelterBox aid


They have been on the most terrifying of journeys unaware that the world was watching. Now thousands of the children of Aleppo have reached relative safety, been given warm clothing, their families receiving aid from disaster relief charity ShelterBox and its partners

At one point these are the photos we thought we’d never see. Thousands of Aleppo families bussed out of the world’s most war-ravaged city to be greeted at displacement camps, and given clothing and other aid that has waited at a tantalising distance for months.


These images just received at ShelterBox’s Cornwall HQ show aid workers from in-country partner, London-based Hand in Hand for Syria, greeting the most vulnerable of the exodus from Aleppo. The aid shown is hats and scarves –  essential as it has started to snow in the region – and other non-food items supplied by ShelterBox. It is part of an ongoing programme to help families displaced by the Syrian civil war.

ShelterBox Operations Co-ordinator Sam Hewett says, ‘The fighting in and around Aleppo that has been broadcast in recent weeks is indicative of the intolerable position that people throughout Syria are forced to endure.’ 

Due to the support of our generous donors, ShelterBox has been able to support people as they are evacuated from the city with items such as clothing and bedding, to shelter them from the cold winter conditions. This would not be possible without the presence of our partner organisations, whose staff share the same fatal risks as the people they are trying to help.’ 


Hand in Hand for Syria’s team are reported to have all escaped Aleppo over the weekend, and the last of New Zealand-based ReliefAid’s team of 40 Aleppo residents has just been reported safely evacuated.

The actual locations of this latest aid distribution are being withheld for security reasons.


You can help by donating here: Please Donate

Which way to run from war-torn Mosul? How desperate do you have to be to flee across the border into Syria?!

Syria seems the very opposite of safety or sanctuary. But as aid agencies in Iraq steel themselves for a possible outpouring from Mosul, ShelterBox and its partners find that even Syrian camps are now becoming boltholes for families on the run. 

Shelterbox aid being distributed to Iraqi IDPs

Mosul in Iraq, home to over a million civilians, now trapped by an intense battle to reclaim the last ISIS stronghold in the country. At any point, in any numbers, in any direction, hundreds of thousands could suddenly be on the run from warfare.

Some 80,000 civilians have fled Mosul and nearby areas so far, and the United Nations is preparing for a worst-case scenario in which more than a million people are made homeless as winter descends. ‘Children and their families in Mosul are facing a horrific situation. Not only are they in danger of getting killed or injured in the cross-fire, now potentially more than half a million people do not have safe water to drink,’ said UNICEF’s Iraq representative Peter Hawkins.

Iraqi children wearing red ShelterBox hats, scarves and gloves

Now reports from a partner organisation distributing ShelterBox aid in Hasake Governorate point to significant numbers fleeing east from Mosul into Syria. New Zealand based ReliefAid is one of ShelterBox’s long-standing distribution partners in Syria. Likewise London-based Hand in Hand for Syria, delivering ShelterBox tents and warm clothing to Syrian displacement camps (see photo), also finds some beneficiaries are from Mosul.

ReliefAid Executive Director Mike Seawright says, ‘We recently completed our ShelterBox distribution in Syria’s North Eastern Hasake Governorate, bordering Iraq. We were supporting a refugee camp in which 80% of the families were from Mosul or surrounding areas.’

This is a constantly changing situation, but ReliefAid reports that thousands of families from Mosul have recently found crossing the border into Syria preferable to taking their chances in Iraq. This is counter-intuitive, a turning of the human tide, which is forcing families from one dire situation into another.

And now the military offensive on Raqqa in Syria is creating another dynamic. Mike Seawright adds, ‘The offensive against ISIS in Raqqa is displacing more civilians into Hasake Governorate. Initial reports are that displaced families have been arriving into camps in the North of Syria over the last few days. These numbers are expected to increase as the military action gains momentum. Combined with the Mosul offensive unmet humanitarian needs, including shelter, are expected to continue to increase dramatically within the Governorate.‘


All ShelterBox partners in Syria and Iraq – ReliefAid, Hand in Hand for Syria, ACTED and new associates Czech-based People in Need – deliver life-saving aid to communities under fire, working in some of the most dangerous places on earth, security issues dictating discretion and a low profile. 

Alongside ongoing work inside Syria, ShelterBox has been preparing for whatever Mosul will create in terms of humanitarian need. Via ACTED households in Northern Iraq have already received basic shelter-related kits from ShelterBox, and tents and aid are prepositioned ready to deploy as families are displaced from the fighting. 1,000 beneficiary households in Ninewa and Erbil Governorates will receive first line shelter support. Thousands of lightweight tents are also on standby, for use in agreement with Shelter Cluster leads.

ShelterBox’s Rachel Harvey has just ended a deployment to Iraq, including a field visit to locations in Ninewa province where aid convoys have to pass through several military checkpoints. Rachel said of this journey, ‘The close proximity of the fighting is really striking. One minute you are drinking coffee in a hotel, an hour and a half later you are driving through an obliterated village on your way to deliver aid to people displaced by a conflict you can hear being waged on the horizon. The distance between peace and relative prosperity, and the devastation of war is frighteningly short.’ 

Response Team volunteer, Jack Bailey is still in Iraq training partners in use of the charity’s aid. Jack says, ‘Our preparedness is the result of months of planning, and of course the generosity of our donors. But, however much notice we have had of a Mosul displacement, there are still many unknowns. We will have to respond as events unfold, and look to our supporters to help us meet the demand.’   

ReliefAid has had to make the difficult decision to move its current winter aid distribution to the Idlib countryside as a result of the terrible situation in Aleppo City. Continued attacks against civilians, extreme medical shortages, zero access to humanitarian assistance and severe food shortages are causing the already dire living situation to deteriorate rapidly.

Aleppo, Mosul, now Raqqa. ShelterBox and its international partners stand ready to help families on the run from war wherever it is safe to do so. But this region will soon be in the grip of an icy winter, with storms and freezing overnight temperatures a real threat to families trapped in ruined cities,  fleeing across desert or up into the mountains.

Aleppo residents have ‘no food, no water, and no hope’

Aleppo - child with destroyed cityscape background

Aleppo – child with destroyed cityscape background

Aleppo residents have ‘no food, no water, and no hope’. ShelterBox aid partner – ‘How could the world stand by as our people are killed?’

As the UN warns that east Aleppo may become a ‘giant graveyard’, local aid workers from ShelterBox’s partner organisation have spoken of their fears from within the war-ravaged city to ReliefAid’s Mike Seawright.    


ShelterBox aid partner ReliefAid has a team in Aleppo, trapped with their families in the bombarded city. In recent months ReliefAid had its offices destroyed by bombing, and they lost one team member to a sniper’s bullet.

Despite this being arguably the most dangerous place on earth to be an aid worker, the ReliefAid team has given up chances to leave East Aleppo, deciding to remain, providing humanitarian assistance to their neighbours and the most vulnerable. Their brave efforts have seen life-saving ShelterBox support provided to over 36,000 people this year, as well as winter clothing for children. But now their Executive Director says, ‘Their future and their lives are hanging by a thread.’

On Wednesday top UN envoy Stephen O’Brien warned that Aleppo risks becoming ‘one giant graveyard’ and pleaded with UN Security Council members to protect civilians ‘for the sake of humanity’. An estimated 25,000 people have been displaced, he added, while in some areas people are so hungry they are reduced to scavenging.

After this sudden escalation ReliefAid’s Mike Seawright managed to contact his team in the city. He says that their greatest feeling is one of ‘Fear of being killed, or injured with no medical care.’

Aleppo Relief Aid warehouse

Aleppo Relief Aid warehouse

East Aleppo has as estimated 275,000 people living in it. Needs are immense for families in cold winter conditions. Medical services are all but defunct following sustained attacks against hospitals and healthcare workers, and families have been forced onto the streets by the fighting.

People in some areas are now huddling in public buildings and former schools. Mike adds, ‘Our team reports a desperate situation with families having no security, no food, no water, and no hope. For civilians caught in the extended siege, having experienced intensive daily air strikes, the escalation in ground fighting is becoming too much to bear.’

In a telling part of the conversation, Mike asked his aid colleagues what messages they would like to give to the international community. The reply was, ‘Forgive me, but we have no messages. How could the world stand by as our people are killed?’

Mike says of one of his Aleppo-based aid workers, ‘He has not slept for two days, has already lost significant weight as a result of the ongoing siege and now is wondering what, if any, future lies ahead. When talking to him about the situation I am often rendered speechless as I try to provide some level of practical or emotional support. What do you say to someone who thinks his future contains only death or imprisonment?’

Mike adda that Aleppo citizens have lost faith in the international community, seeing themselves as pawns in a regional and international game. He adds, ‘The Syrian Government appears to be pushing to finish the game. Having already had one staff member killed by a sniper we are deeply worried about our team in Aleppo.’

You can help by donating here: donatebutton

Give The Gift Of Shelter This Christmas

This Christmas, families around the world will find themselves homeless and in desperate need of help. Whether they have lost their homes to a natural disaster, like the victims of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti or have been forced to leave their homes because of conflict, like the millions fleeing the violence in Syria and Iraq, their needs are quite simple: Shelter, Warmth & Dignity.

Make a donation to the ‘ShelterBox Solution’ as a gift for a loved one and receive this special card to give in lieu of your present.

All you have to do is make a donation of $50 or more by clicking the button below and email us at to notify us that this is a Christmas gift and we’ll send the card out to you. The cut-off date to receive your card in time for Christmas is 15th December.

The ‘ShelterBox Solution’ is our flexible disaster relief fund, allowing us to respond more accurately to beneficiary needs. This might be in the form of a Shelter Kit, relief tent, SchoolBox, or a wide variety of non-food items, like water filters, mosquito nets and solar lights.

Shelter Kits kits provide families with to the tools to build their own shelter or repair a damaged home. Increasingly governments are wanting families affected by disaster to be part of their own recovery, building back better and stronger homes and more resilient communities.

Of course there will always be a place for ShelterBoxes, especially where families have lost everything. To sponsor a box costs $1,000 and if you do so as a gift for a loved one you’ll receive this special card.

Donate here to sponsor a box and give a gift that really makes a difference.

Thank you for your support and Merry Christmas from all of us at ShelterBox Australia.

Other ways to donate:
Phone: 1300 996 038
Post a cheque to: ShelterBox Australia, PO Box 254, Parramatta, NSW, 2124
EFT or direct deposit:  Westpac, ShelterBox Australia, BSB 032 189, account # 230 147. Please make sure you email to notify us of you donation and that it is Christmas Gift.

Shelter Kits enable Haitians to ‘Build Back Better’

Australian ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) volunteer, Peita Berzins has just returned from Haiti where she has been heavily involved in getting much-needed aid into the stricken country. Peita, a retired teacher and author from The Entrance on the NSW Central Coast was working as part of team that included fellow Aussie, Art Shrimpton. This was Peita’s second deployment with ShelterBox, having previously helped in our response to flooding in Malawi in 2014.

Australian ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) volunteers, Peita Berzins and Art Shrimpton have joined the relief effort in Haiti

Australian ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) volunteers, Peita Berzins and Art Shrimpton joined the relief effort in Haiti.

Peita reports on her experience below:

I’ve just returned from my second deployment with ShelterBox, to Haiti, a country in crisis. Moreover, Haiti continues to struggle with the profound aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, with the vast majority of its population living in dire poverty. There is a deep bitterness that the billions of dollars in foreign aid which poured in after the earthquake largely did not reach the needy or alleviate entrenched problems.

Today the strong message from the Haitian government about shelter aid is that tents may be used for medical or educational purposes, but not housing; it is shelter kits that are needed here. The message is “Build Back Better.” The two strong tarpaulins, tools and building fixings found in a shelter kit provide a flexible shelter solution that beneficiaries can use in versatile way – providing roofing, or walls, or repairing other structures.


The cultural, historical and social context of the ruling “Build Back Better” is that in the capital Port au Prince are unruly tent cities, where people still live after the earthquake. These cities are dangerous, no-go areas; hence, a different response is required in the cyclone-affected areas to the south and west.

Our first distribution of shelter kits and NFIs (non food items) will occur this week in the cyclone affected areas to the south, in and near Les Cayes, where we plan initially to work with a local community NGO, 410 Bridge.

I was part of the second team in, and I learned a lot about Logistics. This involves the transiting of kit (in our case, 3000 shelter kits, 6000 LuminAID solar lights, 5800 mosquito nets, 3000 Thirst Aid water purifiers, 3000 water jerry cans) through customs via a consignee, into a warehouse, onto trucks and out to our beneficiaries. This requires developing good relationships with each of these people, as well as keeping track of stock control, planned arrivals and distribution spreadsheets. I was guided by our excellent ICC (In Country Coordinator) Richard Innes (UK) and Logs whiz Lesley Garside (UK).

Peita and Art in the warehouse

Peita and Art in the Chatelaine Cargo warehouse

In the real world of the Haitian capital, Port au Prince, our first delivery of stock arrived at the airport, but then we had the local national two-day holiday for Halloween (November 1 and 2) when everything shuts down!! This resulted in a back-log and delays – a typical part of Logistics and the lives of ShelterBox Response Team Members!

Finally, when our consignment was delivered to the Chatelaine Cargo warehouse, we worked hard, alongside international young volunteers from the NGO All Hands, packing the NFIs into “handbags” to accompany the shelter kits. Team members, Ashton Josephs(UK) and Art Shrimpton(AUS), with help from Dave Ray in HQ, worked out terrific practical guidelines, illustrated and annotated in the native Creole, to assist in ‘Train the Trainer’ sessions and be disseminated to leaders in the local communities. These guidelines include practical advice on building stronger structures and effective ways of securing tarpaulins.

I left Haiti last week knowing our distribution is in good hands with our ShelterBox teams in Port au Prince and in the field. From a broader perspective, clearly Haiti’s problems are serious and long-term; at least we can hope that our supplies to the people in the Les Cayes area go some way to improving their immediate circumstances. 

You can help our efforts in Haiti and other countries affected by disaster by donating to our disaster relief fund, The ShelterBox Solution.


ShelterBox is supporting families fleeing Mosul, but we need your help!



Forced out by crossfire and the threat of chemical weapons, families fleeing Mosul desperately need shelter and safety. Help us be there to give them the safety and protection that ShelterBox aid can provide.

For the last two years, Islamic State has had a tight grip on the city of Mosul, Iraq. But on Monday, 17 October, Iraqi security forces, along with Kurdish and Tribal forces and support from the US, began a military offensive to retake the city.

While this fighting could signal a massive change in the war, thousands of families have been left in the crossfire. Military assaults are happening all over the city, especially in densely populated areas, and the threat of chemical warfare hangs heavy in the air.

In the midst of this chaos, the residents of Mosul are looking for an escape. Almost a thousand people have fled the city, but this could turn into hundreds of thousands – even a million.

Biggest crisis the country has ever seen

The decision to flee is a brutal one. Between the unimaginable horrors of Islamic State rule and the country’s borders lie miles of desert, harsh storms and bitterly cold nights. This could be the biggest humanitarian crisis the country has seen.

We have to be there, not just to provide physical shelter, but safety and protection after years of suffering.


We cannot fail these families

One of our dedicated ShelterBox response teams is on the ground now, working hard to provide shelter. Almost 500 of our family-sized ShelterBox tents have just arrived in the country, with another 1,500 on the way, but we need more. We have to be prepared. We cannot greet these families with empty hands.

Please help us reach them – before it’s too late.


Your donation will help us provide durable family-sized tents to people forced out of Mosul with no belongings and nowhere to go.

You’ll also help us support those who have managed to find temporary shelter in half-built and damaged buildings.

In the region of Duhok, in Northern Iraq, we’re already providing families with ShelterKits filled with all the essentials they need.

Tough, durable tarpaulins can be used to make a waterproof shelter next to any remaining wall, while mattresses and blankets give people somewhere warm and comfortable to sleep. Simple items like solar lamps and water carriers help to make daily life a little easier and much safer. Everything is easy to carry so if a family needs to move and find shelter elsewhere it can be taken with them.


We have been working in Iraq since 2012, supporting people fleeing from conflict both in Iraq and across the border in Syria.

We’re working in the country right now. Helping families who need our help today, along with those who will need it tomorrow.

ShelterBox response team member Rachel Harvey reports from Seje in Northern Iraq on our work with fellow aid agency ACTED to make unfinished houses weatherproof for families on the run from Islamic State.

Hurricane Matthew – One month on

Despite civil protection officials taking to the streets to warn people, many on Haiti’s southern peninsula were unaware of the approach of Hurricane Matthew. It caused the greatest loss of life of any Atlantic Hurricane for eleven years. It is one month on yesterday (Friday) and disaster relief agency, ShelterBox is still there helping Haitians to pick up the pieces. And they met one inspiring lady who opened her hotel to hundreds fleeing the approaching storm.

Madame Mimose with local children

Madame Mimose with local children

Hurricane Matthew wrought widespread destruction and loss of life during its journey across the Atlantic and Caribbean, including parts of Haiti, Cuba, Dominican Republic and Lucayan Archipelago, the SE United States, and the Canadian Maritimes. Over 1,600 deaths have been attributed to the storm, making it the deadliest Atlantic hurricane in more than a decade.

 As soon as the airports re-opened, a ShelterBox response team from the UK, US, Germany and Canada arrived in Haiti, some of whom had experience of the 2010 earthquake response. The team’s geographical focus has been on the hard to reach areas in the Sud-department around Port-a-Piment and Chardonnieres,  with Les Cayes harbour as one of the delivery points for seaborne aid.

 The team’s emphasis will be on the distribution of thousands of shelter kits, allowing the weatherproofing and repair of damaged homes. ShelterBox tents were found to be ideal for use as clinical space, to provide shelter and privacy for patients of the overstretched healthcare facilities. ShelterBox is also providing solar lighting for families where power is down, and mosquito nets, via its Rotary contacts. Water filters will also be in country soon to guard against the spread of waterborne disease. Within days of Matthew, as after the quake of 2010, Haiti was once again in the grip of a cholera outbreak.

ShelterBox is working in partnership with Handicap International and a new partner charity 410 Bridge to identify areas of unmet shelter need.  

Australian ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) volunteers, Peita Berzins and Art Shrimpton have joined the relief effort in Haiti

Australian ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) volunteers, Peita Berzins and Art Shrimpton have joined the relief effort in Haiti

Many towns have a high proportion of destroyed and damaged buildings and infrastructure, but in sharp contrast to the 2010 quake the Haitian Government is coordinating efforts to clear, repair and rebuild, and taking a lead on allocating specific tasks to groups of aid agencies. The thousands of shelter kits and non-food items now inbound will help families to cope in the interim. ShelterBox is also keeping a weather eye on the prospects for Haiti as work continues. Heavy rains cause further flooding and deterioration of road conditions.


The charity has been touched by the resilience and compassion of the Haitian people, and their pride in helping one another. The team shares the story of Madame Mimose Felix who embodies the ‘Haitians helping Haitians’ self-help spirit. They met Mimose when they used Les Cayes as a delivery harbour for seaborne aid, and a hub for aid storage and delivery towards the worst-hit areas.   


Madame Mimose’s story:

In the deep of the night on 4 October Madame Mimose Felix, owner of the Villa Mimosa hotel in Torbeck, Haiti, first heard the sound of people running. She says, ‘The storm got really bad at around 4 am. But I had left instructions for the security gates to the hotel to be left open, so people could come here if they needed to.’

 ‘I looked out of my window, and I saw everyone running. Women with children, pregnant women. They were all running.’ 

The power of the hurricane was devastating...

The power of the hurricane was devastating…

Mimose Felix ended up housing over 300 people in her hotel in the days following the hurricane. In the weeks since Matthew made landfall here she continued to help her community with food donations.

This was made possible by her own local not-for-profit organisation Groupe d’Action pour l’Habilitation Economique et Sociale de la Famille Haïtienne (GRAFHES). This remarkable social enterprise trains and helps Haitian communities, improves living conditions in agricultural areas, and for almost a decade has been working in this southern area providing 13,000 students with hot meals throughout the year. They have also established ten processing units for women’s groups to produce peanut butter and cassava for sale to the school meal programme.

Little wonder then that big-hearted Madame Mimose flung open her gates to everyone as the hurricane roared towards Haiti. She is the embodiment of the ‘Haitians helping Haitians’ philosophy, known locally as ‘konbit’, which helps this Caribbean country to survive every setback that weather and seismology throw at it. Konbit grew from the shared toil of community farming, but has now come to represent a broader spirit of working together and helping one another in times of hardship, and a common goal of improving everyone’s lives.

Mimose is a former agricultural economy Minister in the Haitian Government. When her mother, sisters and brothers left to begin a new life in the USA fifty years ago, she remained with her father because she is passionate about Haiti.

The village of Torbeck, where Mimose runs her hotel, is just outside Les Cayes. Areas to the west of here were among the worst hit by Matthew’s 145 mph winds. That is a wind speed you can’t stand up in, where roofs fly off and masonry collapses, where vehicles tip over.

 ShelterBox’s Response Team has been based in Les Cayes and Port au Prince, as they work to find ways to help Haitian people recover, rebuild, re-energise. As is typical in responding to major disasters ShelterBox is working with partner aid organisations, both global and local. This time a local partner is 410 Bridge, who build sustainable communities in Haiti. The Les Cayes Rotary Club is also helping to identify what kind of aid is needed, and where. A long-established alliance with major humanitarian player Handicap International is also strengthening ShelterBox’s arm.

ShelterBox response team member Andre Bloemink says, ‘I have been really encouraged by the level of coordination between agencies and the active role that the various government departments are taking. There is a real desire to fully plan a thorough response, to ensure that no community is left without support.’

 ‘The response overall is also very much focused on early recovery, as opposed to solely working on the immediate relief of need, making Shelter Kits the ideal response. There is a real desire for longer-term, Haitian-led planning for recovery, and ensuring that potentially unintended impacts of aid are fully assessed and mitigated.’

‘All this takes a lot of effort, but I am encouraged and heartened by the level of commitment to this from our partners and aid colleagues.’

Local experts say that this hurricane may have longer-term effects on vegetation, livestock and wildlife than even the 2010 earthquake did, and worse than Hurricane Hazel in the 1950s.  

In an uncertain future, which will no doubt contain more hurricanes and storms for Haiti, one thing is certain – Matthew will never return. When a storm is particularly deadly or costly, its name is removed from the list by the annual meeting of the WMO Tropical Cyclone Committees. Matthew, having claimed over 1,600 lives, will now be consigned to history like Haiyan (Philippines 2013), Sandy (USA 2012), Katrina (USA, 2005) and Tracy (Darwin, 1974).

You can help the people of Haiti and other countries affected by disaster by donating here: PLEASE DONATE




ShelterBox aid arrives in Erbil ahead of anticipated exodus from Mosul



ShelterBox has now established a pipeline of aid that will see thousands of tents waiting to help families fleeing war in Mosul. Now the anxious wait begins, for the trickle of escapees that may turn into a flood.

International disaster relief agency, ShelterBox has today seen its first consignment of emergency tents arrive in the city of Erbil, just 50 miles from Mosul. Thousands of family relief tents will be pre-positioned close to expected distribution points, anticipating the needs of those escaping the city as fighting intensifies.

ShelterBox’s Rachel Harvey says, ‘The first 500 ShelterBox tents have arrived, another 1,500 are expected in coming days, with more to follow. We are expecting this military offensive to last several weeks, if not months. But we don’t know how many civilians will be able to escape Mosul City or when. So we are working with partners preparing aid in order to react quickly as events unfold.’  

Pallets fo ShelterBox relief tents arrive in Erbil

Pallets fo ShelterBox relief tents arrive in Erbil

In addition to thousands of tents – up to 6,000 are currently committed – ShelterBox has also been working with in-country partner, Paris-based ACTED, to prepare 600 basic kits of essential items such as water carriers, blankets, cooking pots and solar lights for use in camps. In a later phase 1,000 households displaced to Ninewa and Erbil Governates will receive similar kits along with robust tarpaulins and fixings to build emergency shelters. These kits will be for families on the move, expected to be outside the already over-subscribed displacement camps.

ACTED has secure warehouses where their logistics teams can store thousands of tents and kits. The ShelterBox tents arriving now are intended for use in ‘emergency camp’ settings – when the main camps are full or while they wait for those camps to be ready.

In whichever directions people flee Mosul, they will face exhausting journeys by foot across a hostile desert landscape. The longer fighting continues over coming weeks, the greater the chances of stormy weather and sub-zero night temperatures. Portable aid to shelter families on the move will be essential.

Rachel adds, ‘Some people have been displaced in the last couple of days as territory is reclaimed by coalition forces. But the majority of people in Mosul city remain trapped.’ No-one knows the actual number of civilians who have lived here under ISIL rule for the last two years, but it is estimated to be over a million, meaning hundreds of thousands may move suddenly into the desert if escape routes open up as a result of military action.   

Camps established by the United Nations are likely to be used first, and others are still being prepared. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that intensive efforts are being made to create much needed shelter capacity and to get infrastructure in place for emergency food distribution, water, sanitation, hygiene needs and healthcare.

But it is expected that camps will not be able to meet the need if and when very large numbers begin fleeing the conflict.

ShelterBox has planned ahead over months with ACTED, and has partners at work on the Syrian side of the border, including New Zealand based ReliefAid. Rachel says, ‘Good coordination will be key to the success of the humanitarian effort.’ 


image of Mosul city

© Reuters


Fallujah fell in June. Now Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, is the focus of an international coalition seeking to push ISIL out of Iraq. Haider al-Abadi, the Iraqi Prime Minister, announced the start of the offensive on state television on 17 October. And Mosul won’t be surrendered easily – it has great strategic and symbolic importance. It was here that ISIL proclaimed a caliphate two years ago.

Long-term partners French ACTED and ShelterBox have teams in the city of Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, just 53 miles from Mosul. They have been working for weeks to get aid supplies ready so they can respond quickly as the battle unfolds. Tens of thousands of people have already been displaced from Mosul and surrounding areas since March. The working assumption is that as the assault progresses numbers will rise rapidly.

Contingency planning in war zones is never easy. But aid agencies in Iraq are grappling with several unknowns. For example, it’s unclear how many people remain in Mosul – some estimates put the figure as high as 1.5 million. Nor do aid agencies know how long the military operation will last, how many people will flee, and in which directions. Planning for how much aid will be needed, and where, is a matter of instinct and assumption.

Existing camps are already near or beyond capacity so other possible sites are currently being readied.  But demand will almost certainly outstrip supply, meaning many families could be forced to seek shelter outside managed camps in a barren and inhospitable landscape at a time of year given to storms and freezing overnight temperatures.

ShelterBox’s Rachel Harvey in Erbil says, ‘The aim is to get aid to displaced families as quickly as possible. So we are prepositioning stock close to places where we think they might arrive. They are likely to be exhausted and traumatised by their recent experiences. Giving people shelter and essential items such as a solar lamp, blankets and a water carrier will allow them a degree of dignity and security to rest and recover.

But the over-riding feeling is that the numbers and the need will be overwhelming, that the capacity of the combined international assistance will not be enough. The UN estimates that only 54% of the necessary aid funding is in place.

Earlier this year ShelterBox and ACTED made half-finished houses weatherproof in the village of Seje for 2,000 people who had fled the terror of Mount Sinjar two years ago. And ShelterBox has recently committed 3,000 tents for the region, and has a further 3,000 on standby. The first shipment left its Cornwall warehouse last week. ShelterBox is also working with ACTED to make improvements in displacement camps, and has been sourcing and storing portable kits that will allow families on the move to create their own rudimentary shelters.

ShelterBox is asking its donors to dig deep to provide over £1.75 million more to allow this vital work to continue.

You can help by donating here: PLEASE DONATE

‘Haitians to help Haitians’ priority in hurricane-smashed communities, as ShelterBox plans to aid recovery

Little girl in doorway of flooded house


Haiti is counting the human and physical cost of hurricane Matthew – nearly 900 dead, tens of thousands homeless, cholera taking grip. But these disaster-prone communities are resilient, and a team from ShelterBox finds a new ‘self help’ ethos as it makes its partnership aid plans.

‘My house wasn’t destroyed, so I am receiving people, like it’s a temporary shelter.’ These are the words of Bellony Amazan in the town of Cavaillon, where around a dozen people died as hurricane Matthew tore across Haiti’s southern peninsula on Tuesday. She went on to say she did not yet have any food to give people.

Bellony’s community spirit in extreme circumstances reflects a fundamental change from reactions to previous storms and the massive quake in 2010. ShelterBox’s in-country coordinator Andrew Clark says, ‘Everyone is stressing a need and desire for ‘Haitians to help Haitians’ as best as they can. In the past there has been a reliance on aid organisations and a lack of local self-recovery.’ Although international assistance will be essential, and an official state of emergency has been declared, there is an increased emphasis on harnessing community groups and faith-based organisations.

Andre Bloemink, a ShelterBox response volunteer from Canada, adds, ‘Haitians are helping Haitians as best as they can. With previous operations the response often inadvertently promoted reliance on others as opposed to self-recovery. With an already challenged infrastructure, public health and uncertain political situation, the idea is to assist locals as best as we can to support a proactive recovery in the weeks and months ahead.’


As in the 2010 quake when it supported 28,000 families, and in other hurricane events such as Sandy in 2012, ShelterBox has been a major aid provider to Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.

Food, clean water, healthcare and shelter remain priorities on Haiti in the aftermath of Matthew. Transport difficulties to affected areas have been eased a little by the construction of a temporary replacement bridge across La Digue river to the southwest of Port au Prince. ShelterBox team members are exploring transport links and logistics today. But aid access to many remote communities is still mainly by sea or military helicopter, and some coastal towns and villages are still underwater four days after the storm surge.

The UK’s Met Office reports that current weather in Haiti is dry, but very warm at around 28 degrees centigrade. 

In 2010 cholera, previously unknown in Haiti, claimed at least 3,500 lives. The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) now says, ‘Due to massive flooding and its impact on water and sanitation infrastructure, cholera cases are expected to surge after Hurricane Matthew and through the normal rainy season until the start of 2017.’ Among ShelterBox’s suite of aid is a water filtration device to give a household safe drinking water, as well as mosquito nets to combat the spread of other diseases. 

The 'Thirst Aid Station' water filter.

The ‘Thirst Aid Station’ water filter.

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