ShelterBox sends team to Sri Lanka after worst monsoon flooding and mudslides since 2003 

 

Half a million people affected, around 85,000 made homeless. Disaster relief shelter experts, ShelterBox respond to Sri Lankan Government’s call for aid

International disaster relief charity, ShelterBox is sending a team to Sri Lanka today (1st June, 2017) to assess the need for the charity’s specialist aid – including sturdy weatherproof tents, emergency lighting, mosquito nets, and water filtration and carriers.

The team will be re-establishing partnerships with the Sri Lankan Government, colleague charities and local Rotary Clubs in response to the Sri Lankan government’s appeal to the United Nations for help with rescue and relief. The shelter experts responded to monsoon flooding and mudslides in Sri Lanka at this time last year, meaning they have developed the best possible experience in how to deal with flooding on the island and will be working with partners and the Sri Lanka government to share their expertise.

Sri Lankan residents walk through floodwaters in Kaduwela, Colombo. © Lakruwan Wanniarachchi: AFP

ShelterBox Operations Team Lead, James Luxton said, ‘This is déjà vu on a horrifying scale. I was with our team last year and I’m flying tomorrow again to meet up with our in-country contacts to carry out urgent assessments to help local families and communities.’

‘Last year’s response has given us solid experience of how best to level and drain sites so tents can be safely pitched. But the conditions are bad, monsoon rains are still falling, and many rivers are still overflowing. We know from monitoring our aid provision last year what will work best, and we’ll be offering that expertise to the Sri Lanka authorities, with whom we already have a good working relationship.’

In this latest monsoon tragedy the island’s emergency services are currently dealing with the rescue phase, and many people are housed in temporary shelters away from the flood zones. Sri Lanka’s Disaster Management Centre (DMC) warns that the death toll may rise as reports come in from outlying areas. But when the floodwaters recede there could be a need for temporary shelter of the kind provided by ShelterBox.

SRT volunteer, Derek Locke (USA) instructs Sri Lanakan soldiers on erecting a ShelterBox tent

SRT volunteer, Derek Locke (USA) instructs Sri Lanakan soldiers on erecting a ShelterBox tent during our deployment in 2016

 

Sri Lanka is particularly vulnerable to this ‘moving earth’ mudslide phenomenon, having cleared land over decades to grow export crops such as tea and rubber. When the rains fall this deforested landscape can quickly become a torrent of mud with collapsing hillsides.

In 2016, ShelterBox provided tents and other aid to hundreds of families across six different camps. The work was complex because land had to be levelled and drained before it could be used safely for pitches, ensuring occupants wouldn’t be at risk from further storms and flooding. ShelterBox teams worked in partnership with the Rotary Club of Capital City in Colombo, who provided invaluable in-country local knowledge from a network of Rotarians across the island, and with the International Organisation for Migration and World Vision.

You can help by donating here: PLEASE DONATE

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Colombia landslides – ShelterBox has aid in-country and a team in neighbouring Peru

 

As the flood-stricken Colombian city of Mocoa counts its dead and searches for hundreds missing after frightening mudslides, UK disaster relief charity ShelterBox has been invited by the Red Cross to help in the aftermath of this latest South American flood disaster

A plaintive message was posted on ShelterBox’s Facebook site today. It was from Gloria Cajavilca (right), Secretary of the Rotary Club of Bogota DC in Colombia. She wrote, ‘I’d like to know how we can bring ShelterBox to Mocoa, which yesterday suffered a major collapse in which there are many victims.’  

Gloria is referring to torrential rains that brought a sudden onslaught of water, mud, trees and rocks to the city of Mocoa in South West Colombia on Friday night and Saturday morning. Several rivers overflowed, and although warnings were sounded many people failed to hear them, or have time to get out of danger. Colombia’s director of the National Disaster Risk Management Unit told news agencies that a third of the region’s expected monthly rain fell during the night.

With search and rescue underway, there is no certainty yet on the number of casualties in this city of 350,000 people, but early estimates range from 200 to 400. 1,100 soldiers and police are involved in the relief effort. Video footage from the city shows residents crying over a list of missing children, along with their ages, pinned to a family welfare centre.

International disaster relief agency ShelterBox is in touch with its Colombia contacts, and has shelter aid already stored in the country. It also has a team currently in neighbouring Peru, monitoring shelter need after flooding since 13 March killed an estimated 78, demolished over 100,000 homes, washed out bridges, and affected more than 640,000 people along Peru’s northern coastal strip.

ShelterBox Operations Co-ordinator Ayeasia Macintyre says, We are still waiting on data to be released from Mocoa about how many people have been displaced, but for the time being the priority has to be on search and rescue.’ 

We have approached our in-country contacts and colleague agencies from previous responses in Colombia to see if they can provide us with any information on the most urgent needs, and any  emerging shelter strategy for people made homeless following this tragedy. The Red Cross has already asked ShelterBox for assistance, so we are looking to mobilise a team.’

As is often the case in South American natural disasters, one of our main lines of contact is with Rotarians who can provide eyewitness information and local knowledge. One of our Peru response team will also meet a Colombian associate in Lima this evening to get an update.’

As well as its current assessment role in Peru, ShelterBox also spent many months last year providing equipment and rebuilding kits to people in the coastal communities of neighbouring Ecuador affected by the 7.8 earthquake that struck Ecuador almost a year ago. From 2009 through to 2011 ShelterBox responded to flooding in Colombia, earning praise from the country’s President.

Ayeasia Macintyre adds, We are well placed to offer emergency shelter help, but know that Colombian officials are understandably concentrating on a massive relief operation and search for survivors at present.’

To help those affected by disaster around the globe PLEASE DONATE

ShelterBox Working With Rotary to Help Landslide-Affected Families in Sri Lanka

Torrential rain in Sri Lanka

 

On 14th May a low pressure area over the Bay of Bengal caused torrential rain to fall across Sri Lanka. With the ground saturated, further rains cased major landslides 18th May, displacing hundreds of families. Following consultation with local authorities and Rotary contacts, a ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) was sent to assess the need for emergency shelter.
Response Team members Liam Norris (UK) and Derek Locke (USA) are coordinating with the disaster management agency and the military to set up camps for displaced families. 328 ShelterBoxes have arrived in the country and the team are conducting ‘train the trainer’ sessions with the Sri Lankan army to erect relief tents in the camps.
SRT volunteer, Derek Locke (USA) instructs Sri Lanakan soldiers on erecting a ShelterBox tent

SRT volunteer, Derek Locke (USA) instructs Sri Lankan soldiers on erecting a ShelterBox tent

ShelterBox has previously worked in Sri Lanka in response to the Asian Tsunami in 2004 and the Tamil Refugee Crisis of 2009. On both occasions, the involvement of local Rotarians was essential to the success of the deployment. The same is true this time round.

Rotarian and ShelterBox supporter, Supem De Silva with  a Sri Lankan army officer

Rotarian and ShelterBox supporter, Supem De Silva with a Sri Lankan army officer

 

The help of Rotarian, Supem De Silva and his colleagues has once again been invaluable. SRT member Derek Locke, himself a Rotarian, said,

‘Supem worked with ShelterBox in 2009 and is a dedicated Rotarian and humanitarian. Supem and indeed all of the Rotarians we have met here have gone above and beyond to help us facilitate and organise the distribution of aid to people who have either lost everything under the landslides, or are unable to return to their homes due to the risk of further tragedy. I think it is fair to say that without their help ShelterBox would be hard pushed to achieve a successful deployment of aid to the affected peopleSupem  of Sri Lanka. The relationship that we have with the Rotarians here and their selfless willingness to help us in any way they can is a positive example of a model of partnership between ShelterBox and Rotary.’

Stephanie Rodrigo, Past President of the Rotary Club of Capital City, Colombo concurred,

We have appreciated all the support given  by your great organisation, ShelterBox, in our need in 2009 and now. We Rotarians and your organisation has a very special bond. Our members are committed to serving during any disaster alongside ShelterBox to help the people of Sri Lanka

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

ShelterBox aid workers take cover as second cyclone in six weeks brings more misery to Fiji

ShelterBox relief tent in Fiji

 

As the Fiji islands recover from Cyclone Winston, the strongest storm ever recorded in the southern hemisphere, the Pacific archipelago is now bracing itself for tropical cyclone Zena which has already caused flash flooding. Aid workers, including ShelterBox teams, are sheltering from the intense rains.

For the second time in six weeks the people of Fiji have been ordered to stay indoors as another major cyclone bears down on the paradise islands, and thousands are again heading for evacuation centres.

Category three Cyclone Zena is expected to hit early tomorrow. Torrential rain has already triggered major flash flooding on Monday and Tuesday. There are fears that Zena will cause structural damage in populated areas such as Suva, the Pacific Harbour and the Coral Coast. Its course is expected to threaten the main island of Viti Levu and Kadavu, where New Zealand radio reports that at least 3,500 people have already moved into emergency shelters.

The Fijian Government has imposed an indefinite nationwide ‘Restriction of Movement’ order, which came into force at 18.00 local time. ‘To preserve safety and public order prior to the arrival of Tropical Cyclone Zena, all members of the public are to remain indoors and secure their properties until further notice,’ says an official statement. ‘The Fiji Police Force, in support of the Emergency and Discipline Services, will ensure the maintenance of this order.’

ShelterBoxes on wheelbarrows pushed by kids, Batiki island

The Government also announced that schools have been closed, and most international and domestic flights have been cancelled. Fiji media report that a 70-year old man was found dead in the swollen Sabeto River, and another 19-year-old woman is missing after being swept away in floodwaters. 

Alf Evans, who is In Country Coordinator for ShelterBox’s ongoing response to Cyclone Winston, says a bridge is down at nearby Toki. He reports to the charity’s Cornwall HQ, ‘Some ShelterBox tents are being taken down on the initiative of communities themselves.’

‘The hotel in which our response team is staying has all its seawards facing windows boarded up. If all communications on the island go down we will continue to avoid all unnecessary travel, stay safe, and make contact as soon as possible. We have first aid kits, and among the team we have several first aid trained individuals. One of our response volunteers is a trained police lost person and search manager.’

Cyclone Winston peaked on 20 February, killing at least 42 people and causing widespread structural damage. A major international aid effort is still in full swing, particularly on outlying islands with small communities. Zena will be a further setback, as transport infrastructure, power and fresh water will again be vulnerable.

To donate, visit: www.shelterbox.org.au

‘With your help, we are living a good life – we are very happy’ – Monitoring & Evaluation in Malawi

Image of 2 elderly Malawian women

 

Ritta and Dorica both lost their homes when floods destroyed their village in Chickwawa, Malawi. They lost their bedding, their farming tools and all of their food – everything but the clothes they were wearing.

Thankfully, we were able to provide them and their neighbours with ShelterBoxes filled with all of the essentials to replace what they’d lost, from a sturdy, family-sized tent to kitchen utensils and blankets.

One of the items they found particularly useful was the LuminAID solar light, which can last for up to 16 hours on one charge. The inflatable design means that it is waterproof, can float and is light enough for even a small child to carry.

In this video, we see the villagers receiving their LuminAIDs and learn how something as simple as a solar light makes such a difference to the lives of people like Ritta and Dorica:

 

 

You can help people like Ritta and Dorrica by donating here: PLEASE DONATE

Worst Flooding In 50 Years Hits Paraguay

Thye flooded Parana River

The flooded Paraná River, which runs through Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, has displaced hundreds of thousands of people. (Derek Locke / ShelterBox)

The scenes of devastation in Paraguay go on and on, as our ShelterBox response teams assess the need for shelter following the worst floods in 50 years. In some places this means the waters lap over flood defences built nine metres above the usual water level.
The floods, which have forced 130,000 people from their homes in the Paraguayan capital of Asuncion and the surrounding areas, have been caused by heavy El Niño rains. El Niño is a climate phenomenon that creates complex changes in weather patterns, from droughts in Australia and the Pacific, to intense rainfall across South America.

ShelterBox is working with the Paraguayan Red Cross to carry out assessments and distribute aid.

An initial shipment of 2,000 shelter kits is on its way from prepositioned stores in Panama. These shelter kits contain heavy-duty tarpaulins and tools that can be used to create emergency structures and repair damaged buildings.

ShelterBox last provided aid in Paraguay to communities deluged by floods in 2014. Shelter kits proved to be vital lifelines for many people, such as Cinecia Valdes.

Cinecia Valdes, who received a shelter kit from ShelterBox, talks about her experience of flooding in 2014.

Cinecia Valdes, who received a shelter kit from ShelterBox, talks about her experience of flooding in 2014.

We revisited 72 year-old Cinecia, who lives with her young grandchild, two months after she received a shelter kit. Before receiving the kit, she had spent several days sleeping in the street before moving to a flimsy and overcrowded emergency shelter.
However, once armed with the tools and materials included in the shelter kit, two of Cinecia’s sons were able to help repair her home once the floodwaters had receded. They used all of the tools to make the repairs and fixed a tarpaulin over her roof. This not only made the house waterproof, but provided an overhang that created shade and protection from the rain.

Cinecia told us that she was very happy with the repairs made to the house: ‘I was very satisfied with the shelter kit – it contained the things we needed.

‘It is much more tranquil at home than at the emergency shelter. It is better for me, as I have diabetes and high blood pressure.’

Our current teams in Paraguay are working hard to find families in need and give them the same tools we gave Cinecia, so that they too can feel peace and safety once more.

Your support means that we can continue to send teams of ShelterBox volunteers and more aid to places like Paraguay – please donate today.

Brightening Lives – How A Simple Solar Light Makes A Real Difference

Image of ShelterBox relief tent at dusk with a Luminaid solar light hanging in the porch

 

The sun sets quickly in Malawi. There is little twilight and it gets dark all of a sudden. For many people living without regular access to electricity, this darkness is complete and can hold many dangers.

This is why we provided LuminAIDs to people who had lost their homes during the monsoon rains and floods that swept through the country almost a year ago. LuminAIDs are lightweight, inflatable solar lights that can provide up to 16 hours of light on just one charge and we pack them in every ShelterBox we send out.

William Namakoka and his family, from the Malawian district of Zomba, received help from ShelterBox when waist-deep floodwater completely destroyed their mud brick house.

It took four months for the waters to recede enough for the family to be able to move their ShelterBox tent to the site of their old house and to start picking up the routine of daily life again.

As the family save for the materials to be able to rebuild their home, the contents of the ShelterBox they received have become incredibly important to them, particularly the LuminAIDs.

 

William and Annie Namakoka in front of their ShelterBox tent in Zomba, Malawi

William and Annie Namakoka in front of their ShelterBox tent in Zomba, Malawi

William said: ‘As well as using the solar lights to work and cook by inside the tent, we also use them to guide the way to the toilet at night. There are snakes around and light helps us to avoid them and stay safe.’

William has built a pit latrine for the family using the tools provided inside his ShelterBox. In the dark, the journey from the tent to the latrine is full of many dangers. The monsoon months, from December to February, bring deadly snakes such as black mambas. Outdoor latrines and the rubble of destroyed homes like William’s provide the perfect place for mambas to nest.

The solar lights are also waterproof and float, so the family will still be able to have light even if the floodwaters return.

In the pitch black, these clever LuminAIDs not only have the ability to brighten someone’s life, but to safeguard them too.


People in Malawi receive LuminAID solar lights

We need your help to pack every ShelterBox with solar lights, to make sure that no family is left in the dark this winter. Please donate now.