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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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 Responds To Civil Unrest In Iraq

RAQ KURDISTAN. AUGUST 2013. Syrian refugees gather at camps in Iraq Kurdistan (Hunter Tanous/ShelterBox).

RAQ KURDISTAN. AUGUST 2013. Syrian refugees gather at camps in Iraq Kurdistan (Hunter Tanous/ShelterBox).

 

ShelterBox is liaising with partner aid agencies in Iraq Kurdistan to see how the international disaster relief charity can help people who have been forced to flee their homes as civil unrest spreads across the country.
Violence broke out in the city of Mosul earlier this week, forcing 500,000 people from their homes. The majority have fled further north to Iraq Kurdistan’s main cities of Erbil and Duhok to seek safety and shelter.
ShelterBox has been working in the region over the past few years helping Syrian refugee families, providing them with shelter and other vital aid. The charity’s operations department is in contact with its partner humanitarian organisations in the area.
‘We have been looking into the situation since the civil unrest began a few days ago,’ said ShelterBox operations manager Alf Evans. ‘We are getting updates from in country partner aid agencies who we’ve worked with before that include the latest figures of those displaced and where they are as well as the latest developments of what is a very fluid situation. We are waiting for a clearer picture to see how and if we can assist the displaced families, as many are staying in schools and with friends and relatives.’
You can find out more about Kurdistan here.
Please donate here: DONATE

ShelterBox Monitors Central African Republic Conflict

Monastere de Boy-Rabe IDP camp has around 12,000 people living in cramped and squalid conditions, CAR, December 2013.  Photo courtesy of Laura Jepson.

Monastere de Boy-Rabe IDP camp has around 12,000 people living in cramped and squalid conditions, CAR, December 2013. Photo courtesy of Laura Jepson.

 

The Central African Republic (CAR) is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking amongst the bottom ten in development indicators with little or no improvement over the last twenty years. It is now facing a highly complex, prevalent humanitarian and security crisis that has forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. ShelterBox has been monitoring the situation but is holding off sending emergency shelter to these communities in need for now due to protection issues for the affected families as well as security concerns for ShelterBox Response Teams (SRTs). 
The renewed outbreak of violence between government and armed rebel forces that has swept the north-west of CAR over the past few months has affected the country’s entire population of 4.5 million, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Approximately 1.6 million, half of them children, are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.
Civilians have been caught in crossfire during recent clashes in various areas including the capital Bangui and continue to be subjected to violent attacks. Whilst nearly 64,000 Central Africans have sought refuge in neighbouring countries an estimated 533,000 are internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have been living in the bush for months on end with inadequate shelter, limited access to food and water and with serious health concerns.
Half of the 1.6 million population in dire need of humanitarian assistance in CAR are children, Haute-Kotto, CAR, December 2013. Photo courtesy of Laura Jepson.

Half of the 1.6 million population in dire need of humanitarian assistance in CAR are children, Haute-Kotto, CAR, December 2013. Photo courtesy of Laura Jepson.

 

ShelterBox has been monitoring the situation and has been in touch with contacts working in the country for the latest updates.
‘Due to CAR’s transient multifaceted environment and having spoken to other aid agencies in the country, we have decided to not yet send aid to the African country due to protection and security issues,’ said ShelterBox Operations Coordinator Dave Ray.
‘Hiding in the bush for safety’
‘Outside of Bangui people are displaced from their homes because they are hiding in the bush for their safety. If we gave them big new white tents they would become an easy target for armed groups. The size and weight of the tents would limit their ability to keep a low profile and move suddenly if there was an attack. There is also the likelihood that the tents would be taken from the displaced families and used by the rebel groups.
‘Within Bangui, although the majority of IDPs are sleeping outside without any shelter, the humanitarian community is conscious of not encouraging permanent camps. The priority is to focus on the restoration of security so that people can return to their homes as soon as possible.
 
‘Extreme risk destination’
‘We have also been in touch with Red24, a leading crisis management assistance company providing global risk management, which is calling CAR an extreme risk destination. It’s advising against all travel to the country and is evacuating its clients who are currently there. We therefore are not able to send our Response Team volunteers to carry out assessments. The situation is just too volatile right now.’
ShelterBox is continuing to investigate bringing aid into CAR but for now sending shelter would not be appropriate. Our heartfelt thoughts remain with everyone affected.

 

 

Helping Families Displaced By Conflict In The Philippines

Families forced from their houses by conflict set up ShelterBox tents, which will be their new homes for now, Zamboanga City, Philippines, September 2013.

Families forced from their houses by conflict set up ShelterBox tents, which will be their new homes for now, Zamboanga City, Philippines, September 2013.

 

‘Our family has settled here in Zamboanga City, Philippines since 2008. We have a five-year-old son, Toby, and a two-month-old daughter, Blair. On the morning of September 9, 2013, we were awakened by a series of gunshots heard from a distance. We hurriedly tuned in to a radio to find out that communities here in Zamboanga had been held hostage by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebel group. What ensued then made these communities an urban war zone between the rebels and the Philippine government. 
 
‘We were just a few kilometres from the centre of the war zone so we had to be ready to leave our home if needed. In just a few minutes my wife and I were able to pack two bags of clothes for us and the children; an inflatable bed that we bought for guests who came over to visit for Christmas; an old camping tent; and a baby stroller. The gun battles have reached its seventh day, as of writing, and fortunately for us there was no need to use these items. We were able to survive without having to evacuate our home.
‘Fires have spread’
‘There are 62,000 people who do not share the same luck that we have had. They are spread across evacuation sites in the city. During the last seven days, houses have been burnt down in the communities where rebels held their ground. Since day two, fires have spread around these communities and firefighters were driven out by rebel snipers. Families in the evacuation sites fear that, even after this conflict, they may never have a house to come home to.
Families are living in makeshift shelters having been driven from their neighbourhoods by civil unrest, Zamboanga City, Philippines, September 2013.

Families are living in makeshift shelters having been driven from their neighbourhoods by civil unrest, Zamboanga City, Philippines, September 2013.

 

‘I happened to come across your website to find whatever I could to be able to help. I have found your organisation most capable of helping out in this humanitarian crisis. I hope that you will be able to assist families start anew.’
Alvan Pepito is one of the lucky families in Zamboanga as the violence continues. He sent this email to the ShelterBox Operations Team without knowing that the international disaster relief charity was already responding.
‘Following a request from International Organization for Migration (IOM), we sent the remaining of our ShelterBox tents that were prepositioned in the Filipino city Clark to Zamboanga,’ said Operations Manager Alf Evans.
‘Shelter and safety’
‘Even though we have in-country ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) members, we could not risk sending them to the conflict zone out of a duty of care and responsibility we uphold for all of our volunteers. Therefore IOM, which has an office in the country, acted as our implementing partner and distributed them to families in desperate need of shelter and safety.’
The ongoing standoff between a faction of the MNLF and Government forces has left approximately 132 people dead, with roughly 158,000 people affected and over 10,000 homes destroyed. Estimates suggest over 109,000 people are displaced in Zamboanga City.
ShelterBox and IOM is also working with Rotary and the country’s Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to set up the ShelterBox tents at Cawa Cawa evacuation camp in Zamboanga City. To date, 270 have been installed.
Improve conditions
DSWD Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman said that the tents will significantly improve the dwelling conditions of the displaced families particularly the women, children, elderly and persons with disability.

 

 

Horn of Africa: What is Famine and What Causes It?

ShelterBoxes being transported to hard-to-reach families in need in Ethiopia, August 2011.

ShelterBoxes being transported to hard-to-reach families in need in Ethiopia, August 2011.

The Horn of Africa crisis in 2011 was labelled as the worst in 60 years, caused by a combination of sustained drought, swiftly increasing food prices and escalating conflict in Somalia. By September 2011, over 13 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance. 
ShelterBox delivered 7,000 disaster relief tents to displaced families in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, bringing them shelter and a place of privacy at a time of desperate need. However over the past two years, many people have been struggling against famine and continue to do so today. So, what is famine and what causes it?
The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) is a five-step scale that classifies the severity and magnitude of food insecurity, used by the United Nations (UN) and other humanitarian organisations.
Read more here: HORN OF AFRICA
You can donate here: PLEASE DONATE

Video: Delivering aid into Syria

Girls play on a swing in a damaged street full of debris in Deir al-Zor, Syria, May 2013. Credit: Image courtesy of REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi.

Girls play on a swing in a damaged street full of debris in Deir al-Zor, Syria, May 2013. Credit: Image courtesy of REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi.

 

ShelterBox has been constantly monitoring the ever-changing Syria crisis, and as it evolves, so too does the international disaster relief charity’s response. See how ShelterBox’s recent Syria appeal is helping displaced Syrian families in need in this video and it is all thanks to our kind supporters worldwide. 
ShelterBox has also been supporting Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. Read the latest here.