Desperate need for shelter in Fiji in the wake of Cyclone Winston

Cyclone devastation in Fiji


ShelterBox Response Teams are working across Fiji to provide shelter for families after Cyclone Winston, the worst storm ever recorded in the southern hemisphere.

The storm hit on 20 February, bringing torrential rain, wind speeds of 200 mph, and 40ft waves to the country’s 330 islands. The sheer force of the storm has obliterated up to 90% of structures and left an estimated 120,000 people without shelter.

On the island of Makogai, the villagers put on life jackets and sheltered in their homes as the winds gathered speed. As the houses began to tear apart, schoolteacher Sakaraia Balebuca and his family decided to hide underneath their raised brick floor.

As Sakaria moved to crawl under the house, one of the walls broke and crashed into him. Without the lifejacket he was wearing, Sakaria would have been crushed. More people joined the family under the brick floor until more than 40 villagers, including children and mothers with infants, were all hiding together.

When a ShelterBox response team arrived, they found the whole village sheltering in the only four buildings left standing.


boxes being off-loaded from a small boat

A ShelterBox Response Team delivers aid to the Fijian island of Makogai


Thanks to prepositioned stock in Fiji itself, as well as New Zealand and Australia, our ShelterBox response teams have already been able to deliver tents and ShelterBoxes to families on six remote islands, including Makogai. To reach these islands, we have teamed up with Sea Mercy; a charity that uses a network of luxury yachts to deliver aid and medical expertise in the South Pacific.

More aid is on its way, including 2,000 solar lights that will provide light and safety to communities without power, but it’s not enough.

There are still many tiny islands too remote to have yet received help. We need your support to send another 2,000 ShelterBoxes to reach these communities and give people like Sakaria comfort and safety.

Please help the people of Fiji today.


ShelterBox aid arrives in the cyclone-struck Fiji islands – by superyacht, catamaran and traditional long boat

boxes being off-loaded from a small boat


A flotilla of boats has been mobilised to spread aid across Fiji’s 330 islands in the aftermath of Cyclone Winston, the most powerful storm ever recorded in the southern hemisphere.

ShelterBox is using its Australian and New Zealand affiliates, a response team from the USA, and an alliance with  Sea Mercy, a charity that uses super-yachts and catamarans, in order to get aid to Fiji islanders left without shelter in the wake of Cyclone Winston.

On 20 February the most powerful storm ever recorded in the South Pacific hit the paradise islands of Fiji with winds over 200 mph, torrential rain and 40ft waves. The cyclone left 42 dead, buildings flattened and crops destroyed. Around 35,000 people sheltered in 424 evacuation centres, and 97 schools were damaged or destroyed. A state of natural disaster was declared by the Fiji Government, and they put a call out for international aid.

ShelterBox Operations Co-ordinator Phil Duloy says, ‘We already had some ShelterBox aid stored with Rotary colleagues on the islands. Our response team from the USA were on the islands as soon as flights were restored. Working out of the capital Suva, they are now busy visiting smaller islands such as Batiki, Lautoka, Kubulu and Taveuni to assess the situation and evaluate need.’

‘The United Nations estimates that as many as 350,000 people may be affected, over a third of the Fijian population. Fiji has 900,000 people spread over more than 300 islands, so this will be a complex international aid operation. ShelterBox is working in tandem with the Fiji Government and Shelter Cluster partners.’

ShelterBoxes coming ashore on Makogai Island

‘We are in constant touch with our affiliates in New Zealand, Australia and the USA, and are calling on large volumes of ShelterBox stock stored in Melbourne, Dubai and Subang. There is a shortage of timber for building as a result of the storm, so we will use tents in the immediate phase to stabilise the population and provide them with a platform for their recovery.’

ShelterBox aid is once again proving its portability, with ShelterBoxes lashed to the decks of vessels of all kinds, including the islanders’ traditional long boats. ShelterBox is also using the services of Sea Mercy – a US-based charity that delivers aid and medical expertise via a network of luxury yacht contacts, with a base at Port Denerau in Fiji.  

SBox in rib, calm sea

ShelterBox has already dispatched 2,000 LuminAid solar lighting sets, as many communities in Fiji are still without power.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that access to fresh water remains a particular concern. 67,000 Fijians had been suffering drought conditions in January due to El Niño, and most of them live in the corridor affected by the cyclone. Poor road access and communications difficulties are constraining the delivery of aid. On Viti Levu the UN teams found damage was most intensive inland, with some villages having 80% of housing damaged. An OCHAfield team has just returned from Koro island reporting that damage was worse than expected, with nearly 1,000 homes destroyed in this one location.

Photo Feb 27, 13 43 20


You can help those affected by disaster by donating here: PLEASE DONATE

ShelterBox Prepares for Cyclone Mahasen

Satellite image of Cyclone Mahasen, NASA's Earth Data.

Satellite image of Cyclone Mahasen, NASA’s Earth Data.


ShelterBox has been monitoring the path of Cyclone Mahasen this week as it makes its way to Bangladesh and Myanmar across the Bay of Bengal, threatening the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people. 

Based at the disaster relief charity’s headquarters in the South West of England, ShelterBox’s Operations Department has been preparing to provide emergency shelter and other lifesaving supplies to affected communities.

The cyclone is expected to make landfall somewhere between Bangladesh’s Chittagong and Myanmar’s Maungdaw.

‘Although our partners in Myanmar, Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED), have said that the cyclone has weakened to a category one tropical storm, it still has the potential for frightening consequences for many people,’ said Operations Coordinator Dr Alison Ashlin.

‘There could be a storm surge of eight feet in Northern Rakhine in Myanmar, where 140,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) are living in makeshift shelters and tents. Maximum winds are predicted at 97 kilometres per hour, this could cause damage to camps. Additionally, rains and thundershowers are also expected to be widespread which might lead to local mudslides, landslides and flooding.’

Even though evacuation plans are underway in both countries led by their governments, humanitarian organisations in the region continue to prepare for an emergency response to the disaster that still could affect many communities.

‘Help families’ 

‘We have good communications with our partners in both countries and are receiving regular updates on the situation,’ added Alison, also a ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) member who was recently in Myanmar working with ACTED to bring shelter to IDPs displaced by ongoing conflict.

‘SRTs are being mobilised and are on standby and we are also looking into flights and visas. Moreover the logistics team is looking at the quickest way of sending ShelterBox aid to both countries, be it from prepositioned stock in Dubai or elsewhere, or from our headquarters. We have to be proactive in order to help families in need as quickly, efficiently and effectively as possible.’

Cyclone-Prone Madagascar Prepares For Future

Displaced families in Madagascar receiving ShelterBox tents and helping setting up the camp in Toliara, March 2013.

Displaced families in Madagascar receiving ShelterBox tents and helping setting up the camp in Toliara, March 2013.

Frequent cyclones regularly destroy tens of thousands of homes in Madagascar, a country that feels the force of around 60 per cent of the storms that form over the Indian Ocean every year. Being prepared for disaster makes all the difference.

Working closely with Madagascar’s Bureau for Risk and Disaster Management agency (BNGRC), ShelterBox has responded to cyclones in the country every year for the last three years, bringing emergency shelter and other lifesaving supplies to families who have lost everything. There is a constant prepositioned stock of ShelterBoxes in BNGRC’s warehouse to enable both organisations to help families in need as soon as possible.

Last March a ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) responded to the country’s ‘worst flood since 1978,’ according to Colonal Miha from BNGRC. A camp was set up in Toliara, southwestern Madagascar, for the community who had all their belongings washed away by Cyclone Haruna. Now families have rebuilt their homes they no longer need ShelterBox tents and have returned them to BNGRC who will store them for future disasters.

‘Build resilience’

‘These tents are still the property of the displaced people of Madagascar but they, as well as the Mayor of Toliara, think it’s best to now store them in our facility to be used for shelter during the next inevitable disaster,’ said Miha. ‘This will ensure that the future needs of anyone affected in the event of another crisis will be satisfied very quickly.’

‘Although unusual, this is a great idea that is increasing the Madagascan community’s capacity to be prepared for future disasters, and helps to build resilience; essential to a country that regularly is hit by storms,’ added Dave Ray, ShelterBox Operations Coordinator. ‘ShelterBox and BNGRC will be able to respond to displaced families needs more effectively and rapidly in the future.’

Australian SRT Members Help Cyclone Victims in Madagascar

ShelterBox tents going up for families made homeless by Cyclone Haruna at the army base football field in Toliara in the southwest of Madagascar, March 2013.

ShelterBox tents going up for families made homeless by Cyclone Haruna at the army base football field in Toliara in the southwest of Madagascar, March 2013.


‘It was early, about 6am, when we heard people shouting, ‘The water is coming, the water is coming, the water is coming.’ We didn’t realise it would be dangerous for our whole village and family. We stayed for another 30 minutes and then suddenly we were hit by massive waves. It washed away all our goods, belongings and our home. We lost everything. We just ran and swam away from our house with nothing. All we own in the world has gone, washed away.’ 

Lanorhiy Rasoanantenaina and her family were one of many who lost their homes to Cyclone Haruna in Madagascar’s village of Ambosab close to the Fiherenana dyke. The tropical cyclone brought heavy rains that caused the dyke to collapse, which created a tsunami-type flood with millions of tonnes of sand and soil that destroyed all villages in its path.

The Rasoanantenaina family is currently living under a tarpaulin amongst 55 other families in the schoolyard of Ltcee Antaninarehina Infant School.

ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) member Peter Pearce (AU) was with Anthony Keating (AU) when they visited the school to carry out a needs assessment:

‘On arrival we were overwhelmed by the stale stench in the air of the remnants of what the flood left behind. The school’s roof was totally destroyed. We found three families huddled together under one of the tarpaulins, one being the Rasoanantenaina family. Like most of the families here, fishing is their trade.

Avisoa and her four-day-old baby Harina, Madagascar, March 2013

Avisoa and her four-day-old baby Harina, Madagascar, March 2013


Read more and view Anthony’s video report here: MADAGASCAR

If you’d like to donate you can do so here: PLEASE DONATE


‘My Biggest Reward Came From the Filipino People’

SRT members Bill Woodard (left), Sonny Ongkiko (crouching), John Cordell (right) with Eric and Evelyn Nono and their five young children, Philippines, January 2013.

SRT members Bill Woodard (left), Sonny Ongkiko (crouching), John Cordell (right) with Eric and Evelyn Nono and their five young children, Philippines, January 2013.

Bill Woodard has just returned home to his wife and family in USA’s Washington state after deploying as a ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) member in cyclone-hit Philippines. Having completed the extensive SRT training in October 2012, this was his first deployment. Although he was able to put his training into practice and help families in need, his biggest reward came from the Filipino people themselves. 

‘Thanks to the leadership of Alice Jefferson, ShelterBox’s in-country coordinator, SRT member John Cordell (US) and those SRTs who proceeded me, much of the planning and hard work had been done prior to my arrival in the Philippines. My role was therefore to execute the plan.

‘John and SRT member Max Hogg (UK) saw to it that I got to put as much of my training in to practice as possible: cluster meetings, working tents through customs, the logistics of getting the tents to site, training teams to put tents up, and most importantly, evaluating families’ needs and helping put up their tents. By the time I left the Philippines I felt as though my ‘text book’ first deployment was productive and meaningful.


‘But the real surprise and the greatest reward came from the Filipino people themselves. I left the Southeast Asian country feeling as though I was leaving friends behind; we shared so many common values, they were so open and friendly and in spite of all they had been through were still fun-loving.

Read more and donate here: PHILIPPINES



ShelterBox Shirt Off, Rotary Shirt On

In March 2011, ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) member and Rotarian Peter Pearce (AU) was sent on deployment to storm-hit Madagascar. He was part of the second team in to deliver emergency shelter to families displaced in a southern area completely devastated by a cyclone. Having seen the desperate circumstances these families were living in, Peter wanted to do more for them upon his return to Australia.

ShelterBox aid recipients in Madagascar March 2011


In March 2011, ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) member and Rotarian Peter Pearce (AU) was sent on deployment to storm-hit Madagascar. He was part of the second team in to deliver emergency shelter to families displaced in a southern area completely devastated by a cyclone. Having seen the desperate circumstances these families were living in, Peter wanted to do more for them upon his return to Australia. 

‘People were living with nothing: no homes, no food, no water, and completely at the mercy of the elements. Where they were living was so far removed from the capital Antananarivo, there was such a great need. I made a decision there that when I returned to Australia, I would take off my ShelterBox shirt, put on my Rotary shirt, and try to assist those people who have nothing when we have five of everything.

‘I’m part of Gosford North Rotary Club in Sydney and I knew they would be able to help. We ended up raising enough money for goods to fill a 40 foot shipping container including 1,000 hand-knitted woolen blankets, water purification units as clean water is such a high demand, new and used clothing, school satchels, sunglasses, school reference books and novels.

‘A team of four of us from the Rotary club went over in October 2011 to have a look at the situation again to determine the recipients of our aid and talk to the consignees. Everyone was very supportive including the Antananarivo Rotary Club, amongst other clubs in Madagascar, as well as the country’s disaster response unit BNGRC, who all were happy to support us and help us bring in the items. We then went back in June 2012 to deliver all of the items to the people ourselves. We wanted to deliver things personally like ShelterBox, which I think is very important.

‘We also decided to take in with us sewing programmes where we brought sewing machines, material and instructors to train people, assisting them in starting a business to set up something sustainable that provides them a livelihood.

‘The Madagascan youth have nothing to do; they don’t even have footballs even though the sport is popular there. We therefore also brought 200 full soccer strips along with footballs and nets for the young people to play a game together on Saturday afternoons.

‘The partnership between ShelterBox and Rotary is invaluable as both organisations support each other’s work, this project being a prime example. Madagascar’s Rotary clubs and BNGRC assisted ShelterBox with logistics on its deployment in the country. Through these contacts, this Rotary project has been a success. Both ShelterBox and Rotary have worked together to reach their shared goal, helping families made homeless by disasters.

‘This container of goods has helped a small proportion of the people whose neighbourhoods were wiped out by the cyclone. Many more containers of goods are needed and therefore could be an ongoing project for our Rotary Club as well as other clubs.’



ShelterBox Responds to Cyclone Evan in Fiji

Photograph by NASA - NASA’s Earth Observatory

Photograph by NASA – NASA’s Earth Observatory


A ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) has arrived in Fiji to assess the need for emergency shelter following Cyclone Evan, the biggest cyclone to strike the Pacific nation in two decades that has left western parts of the main island Viti Levu the hardest hit. 

To enable a rapid response to the disaster, the SRT members Owen Smith and Ross McKenzie are from New Zealand and were on standby to be flown out on the next available flight as soon as the storm passed over Fiji.

The category four storm with winds of over 200 kilometres per hour and heavy rains destroyed homes, caused flash floods and cut power. The Fiji times reported Lautoka, the nation’s second largest city, looking like a ‘war zone’.

Due to advanced government warnings, more than 8,000 people found safety during the cyclone by taking shelter across 137 evacuation centres, according to the Ministry of Information.

ShelterBoxes prepositioned 

There are ShelterBoxes prepositioned in Fiji with Rotarians that the disaster relief charity worked with on its previous response last April to heavy flooding in the same area. ShelterBox will therefore be able to quickly bring shelter and dignity to displaced families in need.

‘We are very concerned by media reports of the destruction in Fiji caused by Cyclone Evan,’ said Owen before the SRT flew out. ‘We are well prepared to respond, however, and will be doing everything we can to deploy ShelterBoxes quickly and effectively.’

ShelterBox Sends Aid to Cyclone-hit Madagascar

ShelterBox is sending emergency shelter to Madagascar for families who have been made homeless by Cyclone Giovanna that struck on 14 February.

A ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) has been working closely with the National Bureau of Risk and Disaster Management (BNGRC), the national disaster relief agency, to carry out a needs assessment in the most devastated areas of the island.