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.

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

ShelterBox and ACTED have transformed unfinished buildings into habitable houses for Iraq’s families on the run from Islamic State

Seje-view over buildings-and desert ©ShelterBox/ACTED

Seje, Iraq – view over buildings and desert ©ShelterBox/ACTED

A half-finished home is safer than no home at all. Nearly 2,000 people have sheltered, sweltered and shivered in these breeze block shells for over two years. Now ShelterBox and partner agency ACTED have transformed and weatherproofed unfinished buildings in a Northern Iraq village.

ShelterBox Response Team volunteer, Rachel Harvey reports from Iraq


Seje is a village like no other. It is largely made up of houses belonging to members of the Kurdish diaspora, but many of the building projects stalled when the local economy crashed in the face of continued conflict and a falling oil price.

The walls and roofs are there, but windows, doors and paintwork were never completed. Around 2,000 of Iraq’s internally displaced people – as many as thirty sharing a single house – were offered temporary refuge here. For most, ‘temporary’ has turned into a protracted two years, and there is no immediate prospect of a return home.

So disaster relief partners ShelterBox and ACTED launched a joint project to provide ‘sealing off’ kits to make good the houses. PVC windows and doors, wood, tarpaulins, tools and fixings were given to households to seal-up the open spaces. At last these long-suffering families are protected from dust, animals, bugs, summer heat and winter cold, and have some measure of privacy.

Barkat Ibraheem Khalaf with daughters and granddaughter, Jyan ©ShelterBox/ACTED

Barkat Ibraheem Khalaf with daughters and granddaughter, Jyan ©ShelterBox/ACTED

Barkat Ibraheem Khalaf (photo 2nd left) lives with his extended family in the village. Sixteen people share a house including five children, one of them just 13 days old when ShelterBox visited this month. The infant, Barkat’s granddaughter, has been named Kanawer, which means ‘where is our home?’ in Kurdish. 

The Khalaf family home was once a small town called Gar Azer Shengal nestled behind Sinjar Mountain. But the town was overrun by Islamic State forces in 2014. The family fled and has been living in the unfinished building in Seje ever since.

‘Before we had this we just had some thin plastic sheeting,’ said Barkat. ‘It was terrible. In the summer everything was covered in dust. In the winter the rain came in. It was like a flood with the kids paddling around in the water.’

Now things are much better he says. The sealing off kits from ACTED and ShelterBox have provided protection from the elements and Barkat says it was all easy to install because the correct tools were provided. The family’s original home back in Gar Azer Shengal has been destroyed and the village is ‘occupied’. If Islamic State is driven out of Iraq will the family return? ‘I can’t say yes or no,’ he said. ‘There is no trust anymore.’

Barkat’s family and many of their neighbours in Seje are survivors of one of the most notorious episodes in the Kurdish battle against so-called Islamic State. In August 2014 IS seized control of the city of Sinjar in Nineveh province. There were reports of mass executions and women being taken into slavery – the UN records that 5,000 Yazidi civilians died. An exodus of hundreds of thousands of people onto barren Mount Sinjar followed. Aid was dropped by helicopter, but over the coming weeks only one in ten was able to leave the exposed mountain and head for displacement camps. Seje and its abandoned and unfinished houses offered some protection to around 2,000 of these battle-weary travellers.

Twin girls born 31st August 2016, still unnamed when photo taken ©ShelterBox/ACTED

Twin girls born 31st August 2016, still unnamed when photo taken ©ShelterBox/ACTED

Among the displaced citizens of Seje are twin girls born 31 August 2016, still unnamed when our photo was taken (photo top left).

Also Hanif, a widow age 45 who was stranded on Mount Sinjar for eighteen terrifying days. Hanif says there was no water or food beyond the meagre supplies they had carried with them. The very day they fled to the mountain Hanif’s daughter gave birth to baby Afreen, which means ‘creation’. Afreen is now age 2 (photo top left) so has spent all her young life in the makeshift dwellings of Seje. Hanif shares half a divided house with her daughter and three granddaughters.

The building, like most others in Seje, was just an unfinished shell when they moved into it, no windows or doors, only gaps in the concrete walls. They tried blocking up the gaps with stones and bricks but that cut off all natural light and the house was very dark. Now that ACTED and ShelterBox have stepped in, new hard-wearing windows and a door have been installed, keeping out the dust in summer and the cold and rain in winter. ‘It was very hard to keep things clean before.’ Hanif said. ‘Now things are much better. We are protected inside.’

Seje-Khudedo and family ©ShelterBox/ACTED

Seje – Khudedo and family ©ShelterBox/ACTED

Khudedo and his extended family (left) were forced to flee from their homes in Telazeer near Sinjar in August of 2014. From a community of 1,200 people Khudedo thinks only 100-150 were rescued or escaped. The rest were captured or killed. He recalls being trapped on Sinjar mountain. ‘Those times were really difficult. No food or water. We were really afraid.’ The nearest small spring was a 10km walk away, and the journey was far from safe. Khudedo explained that at one point they were so short of water they began using the caps from plastic water bottles to measure out rations for each person.

After a while a safe corridor opened up, and Khudedo was able to arrange a few vehicles to help bring his family to safety after walking close to ten hours. He and his sons were construction workers in Seje, working on the very house where ShelterBox recently found them. They knew the owner of the house lived abroad and would not be returning, so they contacted him and he graciously allowed them to live there in his absence. The home is large, but Khudedo lives there with his five sons and their families – around 30 people in total.

The ‘sealing off kits’ have made a great difference. Khudedo recounted having to shake out all their clothes and household items every day as the rooms would fill with dust. During the winter, they blocked the windows with stones to keep out the cold and wind, but the rooms would be so dark it was difficult to see. ‘These windows and doors really have made all the difference, and even though this will not be our house forever, our family finally feels safe and happy living here.’

His family longs for the day when they can return home, but they are afraid of what they might find. ‘We don’t know the condition of our homes or if anything is even still there. We don’t know how long it will take for the fighting to stop. We have the skills to rebuild our house, but we have no money left and no materials. We are also afraid of returning because Islamic State were our neighbours and they might still be there. We cannot return unless we have protection.’

Hanif, 45 and her granddaughter Afreen, 2yrs ©ShelterBox/ACTED

Hanif, 45 and her granddaughter Afreen, 2yrs ©ShelterBox/ACTED

ACTED and ShelterBox are now preparing to respond to an anticipated humanitarian disaster centred on the city of Mosul, Islamic State’s last stronghold in Iraq. A military offensive aimed at liberating the city is expected to trigger a massive displacement of people, an estimated 600,000 or more. Initially aid will be focused on increasing the capacity of camps for internally displaced people in Northern Iraq, but a second phase will offer portable aid to people on the move.

ShelterBox is funding the sourcing of basic non-food items kits and shading materials, ACTED is purchasing them locally and arranging storage, delivery, and distribution to displaced families. ACTED and ShelterBox have partnered many times before around the world, most recently after the Nepal quakes in 2015 when they sourced shelter materials in country and delivered them to some of the highest-altitude communities on the planet.

You can support our efforts by donating here: PLEASE DONATE

‘ShelterBox Was The Answer To My Prayers’ – Report From The Philippines


Filipino man carrying a corrugated iron sheet

(©Bill Woodard / ShelterBox)


Just before Christmas, category 4 Typhoon Melor caused catastrophic damage to the region of Northern Samar in the Philippines. Homes, crops and livelihoods were totally destroyed in many communities.

ShelterBox has been aiding the recovery by working with French aid agency ACTED to provide vital shelter materials and tools to 400 families in the areas of Palapag and Mapanas.

These two areas were the hardest hit by the typhoon. No home escaped damage, and at least half of them were destroyed completely.

Mercedes Arca and her husband Valentin, who at 82 is the second oldest person in the island vilalage of Binaly, were just one of the families to lose their home to Typhoon Melor.

Mercedes told us that before the typhoon came, they were warned to seek the safety of higher ground and even to consider leaving their island home, which is where the couple were both born and raised. However, they had heard this warning many times in the past and the little island had always escaped the worst of the storms.

The couple decided to stay, but after a night of heavy rains the wind started blowing so hard that the roof began to come apart. At this point, they fled their home to the local primary school. More than 400 people crammed into the two concrete buildings as the storm raged overhead.

Miraculously, none of the villagers were hurt, but more than 120 homes had been destroyed or badly damaged. There was nothing left of Mercedes and Valentin’s house.

Mercedes was devastated, as they had no way of rebuilding again. She said: ‘What are we going to do? We are so old and have no money.’ But when the ShelterBox team, made up of Andrew Clark (UK) and Bill Woodard (US) provided the couple with materials to rebuild their home, she was overjoyed. She said: ‘Thank you, thank you. ShelterBox was the answer to my prayers.’

ShelterBox provided each family with locally sourced equipment including a hammer, a saw, a shovel and corrugated iron sheeting, which can be used as for walls and roofing materials.

In this video, Tom Tejano, the Mayor of Mapanas, explains what happened to the area when the typhoon hit, and how ShelterBox aid will help people to recover from the devastation.

The team worked with ACTED to combine distributions of aid with education on the equipment. Community members were not only shown the different ways that the materials could be used, but also ways in which they could build back safer, making them more resilient in the face of future storms.

ShelterBox has responded to 20 disasters in the Philippines in the past six years, most recently after Typhoon Hagupit in December 2014, but has never worked in this area of Northern Samar before. Together with ACTED, ShelterBox was the first organisation to reach these communities and give them the tools to rebuild their homes and lives.

To donate, please visit www.shelterboxaustralia.org.au

Video: ‘Partnerships Are Key In Delivering Aid’

Toma Dursina from aid agency ACTED, which ShelterBox has been partnering with while responding to the Nepal earthquakes

Toma Dursina from aid agency ACTED, which ShelterBox has been partnering with while responding to the Nepal earthquakes


During our response to the earthquakes and subsequent tremors that first hit Nepal almost two months ago, we have been working with other aid agencies to make sure that we reach as many people as possible.
Working in partnership with other organisations means that we have been not only able to coordinate our efforts in making sure that communities don’t get missed out, but we’ve also been able to physically reach more places too.
In this video, Toma Dursina, who is a leading a team in Nepal for the French organisation ACTED (the Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development), describes the challenges of delivering aid to remote, high altitude regions when roads and routes have frequently been cut off by landslides.
Toma goes on to explain the importance of working in partnership with other organisations to deliver the right type of aid efficiently and as fast as possible. He goes on to say that the partnership with ShelterBox has been one of ACTED’s most successful during the response to the Nepal earthquakes. Together we have managed to bring shelter to 10,000 people who have lost their homes.

ShelterBox is continuing to work with ACTED in Nepal as the start of the monsoon season makes the need for shelter even more urgent. We are currently in the process of transporting 14,500 tarpaulins which will be distributed along with materials, such as corrugated iron, so that people can create temporary shelters and make repairs on damaged buildings too.

You can help by donating here: PLEASE DONATE

Shelter For More Than 15,000 People In Nepal

Nepalese villager help unload a truck of Shelterbox aid

Local volunteers assist in delivering ShelterBox aid to the people of Pipaldanda in Nepal


ShelterBox has now been able to provide shelter for more than 15,000 people whose lives were turned upside down following the recent Nepal earthquakes.
Despite the second major earthquake to hit the country last week, which measured 7.3 in magnitude, our ShelterBox response teams have been working tirelessly to reach families whose homes have been destroyed or badly damaged.
The teams have been working with fellow aid agencies the Nepal Red Cross Society, the Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), and Handicap International to help coordinate and distribute supplies of aid.
So far, more than 2,600 shelter kits and almost 500 UN specification tents have been distributed to families in a variety of areas including the capital of Kathmandu, and the districts of Dhading and Sindhupalchok. Each tent will provide vital shelter for a family whose home has been destroyed, while shelter kits contain the vital items to enable families to create temporary shelters and start repairing their damaged homes.
Our teams have been further helped by local volunteers, including people like Rom Singh Basnyal, who has been helping distribute aid to other families despite suffering a great deal of loss after the earthquake.
Rom Singh Basnyal, a local volunteer who has been helping distribute ShelterBox aid.

Rom Singh Basnyal, a local volunteer who has been helping distribute ShelterBox aid.

Rom comes from the village of Pipaldanda in the district of Sindhupalchok, but is currently working as a lawyer in Kathmandu. After the first earthquake took place, he travelled by bus and then on foot for further hour and a half to get back to his hometown.  When he arrived, he returned to find his family home destroyed and his mother buried under the rubble.
Rom had to carry his mother’s body to a burial spot a few miles away before returning to help other villagers recover the bodies of the dead. It took five days for them to recover all of the people who had been buried in the disaster.
Thankfully, the rest of Rom’s family survived and ShelterBox has provided them with a tent to help them shelter from the coming monsoon rains. Rom had walked for an hour and a half from the village through high mountainous terrain to help our response teams load up the first of our trucks travelling to Pipaldanda with tents for the villagers.
ShelterBox response team member Liz Odell shows villagers in Pipaldanda how to put up the tents that were distributed.

ShelterBox response team member Liz Odell shows villagers in Pipaldanda how to put up the tents that were distributed.

Help from people like Rom, along with cooperation from other organisations, is crucial in helping our aid to reach remote communities in Nepal’s mountainous landscape. However, we still need your support to make sure that we can continue to provide the shelter to keep families safe and dry before the monsoon rains arrive.

You can help our efforts in Nepal and other countries affected by disaster by donating here: PLEASE DONATE

Helping Communities Survive The Next Storm In The Philippines


Recipients of a shelter from our project with Handicap International (Toby Ash/ShelterBox)

Recipients of a shelter from our project with Handicap International (Toby Ash/ShelterBox)

‘After surviving Typhoon Haiyan, we had to cope with three more typhoons. But now that we have moved into our new shelter, I know my family is finally safe.’ These are the words of Anna Lisa Calvadores, a young mother who lives in small, tight knit community on an exposed hillside in Eastern Samar in the Philippines. 
Toby Ash who is the Philippines country coordinator for ShelterBox, recently met some of the people who are involved with ShelterBox’s projects to create resilient ‘transitional’ shelters in the country following the damage caused by Typhoon Haiyan.
For more than a year, Anna Lisa and her family lived in a tiny, makeshift shelter cobbled together from tarpaulins and materials salvaged from her old home, which was completely destroyed when Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the country in November 2013.

The typhoon was one of the strongest storms ever recorded and destroyed not only homes and buildings, but people’s livelihoods too, leaving them without the income to start rebuilding. She and other vulnerable families are now moving into safe, resilient shelters being built by ShelterBox and our project partners across areas hardest hit by the disaster.

Anna Lisa Calvadores, who has recieved a new 'transitional shelter' as part of one of ShelterBox's projects in the Philippines. (Toby Ash/ShelterBox)

Anna Lisa Calvadores, who has received a new ‘transitional shelter’ as part of one of ShelterBox’s projects in the Philippines. (Toby Ash/ShelterBox)

The generosity of our donors following the extraordinary scale of destruction wrought by Haiyan has enabled us to continue our assistance to those who lost their homes. Working in partnership with four larger international aid agencies, ACTED, Handicap International, Islamic Relief and Catholic Relief Services (CRS), we are constructing almost 1,700 ‘transitional’ shelters, made largely from locally sourced materials. We are working in Eastern Samar, where Haiyan first hit landfall, in Leyte, close to the devastated city of Tacloban, and on the island of Bantayan.
In addition to the creation of the shelters themselves, the projects promote a wider understanding of how communities can best protect themselves in the future by passing on, and training carpenters in, techniques to rebuild safer shelters. In this way, communities are taking an active role in the recovery process and helping themselves to become more resilient to future disasters.
One such carpenter is 50 year old Nilo Visto, from the municipality of Alang Alang in northern Leyte, who underwent 15 days of training as part of the project we are carrying out with our implementing partner ACTED. He now has a certificate from the Philippines’s Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) after demonstrating his knowledge of safe building practices. Since graduation, Nilo has helped construct 20 strong shelters for us in his village. With his newfound skills, Nilo believes that he will be able to find more regular work to help support his family and also be able to assist his neighbours rebuild safely.
Nilo Visto, who now has a certificate in safe building practices as part of  the project ShelterBox is carrying out with our implementing partner ACTED.  (ACTED/ShelterBox)

Nilo Visto, who now has a certificate in safe building practices as part of the project ShelterBox is carrying out with our implementing partner ACTED. (ACTED/ShelterBox)

The shelter projects we are supporting target the most vulnerable of society – often the elderly, physically challenged and families who have limited capacity to recover on their own. Other members of the community are often happy to help out with the construction work even though they will not be beneficiaries themselves. In Anna Lisa’s village, where we are supporting the work of CRS, we found a large group of residents busy making gravel from large boulders, which will be used in the foundations.
The projects we are undertaking also engage the wider community in build back safer awareness activities, from catchy build back safer songs to house-to-house visits. These activities clearly paid dividends in December last year when Typhoon Hagupit struck areas we are working in. This time they were far better prepared, with many households tying down their shelters and reinforcing their roofs in the hours before the storm hit. None of our newly built shelters sustained any damage.
The reality of climate change is that super typhoons such as Haiyan are no longer one off events. So far this year, the Philippines has already endured three powerful typhoons. Our continued engagement is helping to ensure they are better able to withstand extreme weather events in the future, minimising not only the future risk to life, but also the need for us to return with emergency aid in the years to come.

The Wait Is Finally Over As ShelterBox Aid Reaches Gaza

image of relief net going up in gaza

After months of negotiations, ShelterBox aid is being distributed to people in rural parts of Gaza who have been made homeless by ongoing conflict.
Last summer, tensions in Gaza once again came to a head in what is known as the 50 day war. During this time, it was very difficult for humanitarian agencies to access the region, so providing clean water and medical aid became the main priority.
However, continued bombings, shootings and missile attacks have destroyed an estimated 100,000 homes, causing a housing shortage. Thousands of families have left Gaza’s cities for the relative safety of rural areas, triggering the need for accommodation and emergency shelter.
After six months of lengthy negotiations and patience, ShelterBox has now been able to start delivering aid to Gaza.
 ShelterBox CEO Alison Wallace said: ‘At last ShelterBox can help the displaced families of Gaza. Our tent-based aid wasn’t appropriate in the war zones, but in outlying areas we can help families who have run from conflict and are seeking only basic shelter and safety.’
An initial 250 ShelterBoxes have been delivered and are currently being distributed to families by the Paris-based Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED), who ShelterBox regularly work with.
This slideshow shows the first 20 ShelterBox tents being put up and a further 60 families in need of shelter have already been identified. ShelterBox will be sending 500 boxes in all, and the next batch will be transported to Gaza soon.
See the slideshow on Flickr


The ShelterBoxes, which contain gloves, hats and scarves as well as extra blankets, cannot come too soon as Gaza has been experiencing extreme weather conditions with snowfall, hailstorms and flash flooding in places.
The ShelterBox tents have also been designed with special ventilation, so that they will stay cool when the hot weather eventually arrives.
You can help by donating here: PLEASE DONATE

‘Rice, Sugar and Salt’ – Lessons learned from seven months in the Philippines.

Typhoon Haiyan Remembered


Toby Ash is the Philippines country coordinator for ShelterBox and has, along with our four project partners, been working to help construct almost 1,700 shelters for families affected by Typhoon Haiyan, which struck one year ago this week. In this personal reflection from Toby we hear about the difference ShelterBox is making in the region thanks to the support of our donors from around the world. 

‘When are you moving in?’ I asked a beneficiary of one of our newly built shelters yesterday. ‘Not until we’ve brought good luck to our new home,’ she replied. ‘The first things we bring in are containers of sugar, rice and salt. Then we will plant a Kalipayan (‘happiness’) tree by the foundations. Only then can we move in’.

So, yesterday was much like every other day of the last seven months I have spent here in the Philippines – it was a day of learning. I arrived here at the tail end of the emergency phase, some five months after Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the country leaving more than 6,000 dead and a million homes destroyed. By April the basic needs of those affected had been largely met – most had access to some basic shelter to protect them from the elements. But travelling through the great swathe of the country that was affected, it was clear that the future of many of the Haiyan’s survivors remained precarious – the road to recovery would be long and difficult, and many would not be able to get there without further assistance.

ShelterBox was one of the leading international shelter agencies that responded to the typhoon last November. Over the course of more than five months we helped almost 7,000 households with more than 100 ShelterBox response team members distributing boxes, tents, shelter kits, solar lamps, water purification systems and other desperately needed equipment.

In many disasters, the provision of a tent and other household items are all that is required for those affected to start rebuilding their lives. But the scale of the damage wrought by Haiyan has made the process of recovery much more difficult. The typhoon destroyed millions of coconut trees, rice fields and thousands of fishing boats, leaving those who depend on them for their living without any income. And with no income there can be no rebuilding. Even those able to eke out a living are faced with the stark choice of having to put food on the table and sending their children to school or buying building materials. Then, of course there are society’s most vulnerable. How does a frail, elderly woman rebuild her home by herself?


Philippines country coordinator, Toby Ash (pictured center) in the Philippines

Philippines country coordinator, Toby Ash (pictured center) in the Philippines


Once the frenzy of the emergency phase had calmed, we began to look at how we might be able to continue our assistance to help these survivors recover from this devastating and traumatic event. I travelled extensively across the typhoon hit areas in a bid to better understand the needs of those affected and to look at how we could assist the most vulnerable, building on our legacy from the emergency stage.

Given our limited operational resources in the country, a key goal has been to identify project partners to help us continue with our work. The initial ground work on this was done by Sam Hewett, one of our operational co-ordinators who oversaw the emergency response in the early part of the year. Myself and Jo Reid, our projects consultant at HQ, followed a strict and rigorous criteria for selecting our partners that examined every aspect of their proposals including the nature of the shelter project, its location, the partner’s track record and the likely speed of completion.

Over the course of the summer we signed partnership agreements with four large international aid organisations – ACTED, Handicap International, Islamic Relief and Catholic Relief Services. In total we will be building almost 1,700 transitional shelters built mainly of locally sourced materials in four separate locations badly affected by the typhoon. Although not permanent, they are designed and built to be resilient. Each will meet the ‘build back safer’ guidelines as recommended by the International Federation of the Red Cross’ (IRFC’s) shelter technical team here.

But in many ways these projects are bigger than the individual shelters themselves. We are working with our partners to create shelters that can serve as exemplars of safe building practice in the communities they are built in over the coming months and years. Moreover, we are directly training carpenters and engaging the wide community in safer building practices, with the goal of leaving them better prepared for natural disasters in the future.

I have been a ShelterBox response team member for six years now and have delivered ShelterBoxes to many far flung places across the world. The last few months has been a different ShelterBox experience, but one that has been equally rewarding. Last week we handed over a specially adapted shelter to Conchita Suamer, a frail 89 year old woman, that will allow her to live in dignity after months in a tiny shack cobbled together from rusty lengths of corrugated iron. At this stage in the disaster, almost a year after the typhoon struck, a tent would be not be the right shelter solution for her. But the shelter we have built for her and her family is.

ShelterBox’s response to the calamity that hit this part of the Philippines last year, has been its most complicated and multi-faceted to date. Institutionally it has been a learning process, but one which will hold us in good stead in tackling the complex shelter issues that will invariably be thrown our way in the future. And what I have learnt? Many, many things but first and foremost, what a wonderful country the Philippines is and how warm-natured and resilient its people are. And of course to have a container of rice, sugar and salt in my home, and a ‘happiness’ tree planted close to its foundations.

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