ShelterBox Team in Kenya Following Severe Floods

‘Access to affected communities is challenging’ – ShelterBox team in Kenya to assess shelter needs after major flooding and a burst dam

Flooding in Kenya has so far claimed 170 lives. Last week a dam in the Rift Valley burst unleashing reservoir waters that careered into two villages killing more than 50 people. ShelterBox is now in Kenya to see if it can help, as an estimated 300,000 people have now been forced from their homes.

Across Kenya heavy rain and landslides have caused over a quarter of a million people to leave their homes. Some in remote communities needed rescuing by helicopter.

A dam burst on a commercial flower farm in Kenya’s Rift Valley has killed more than 50 people in two villages, half of them children. The reservoir, situated on top of a hill 120 miles from Nairobi, gave way a week ago today as nearby residents were sitting down to their evening meals. The deluge swept away powerlines, homes and buildings, including a primary school. The search through mud for bodies is still continuing.

International disaster relief agency ShelterBox is expert in providing emergency shelter for displaced communities, and can supply essential items such as solar lighting where power is down, tools and tarpaulins for rebuilding, and water filtration where there are fears of water-borne disease.

ShelterBox Operations Coordinator Rachel Harvey is currently in Nairobi, and says, ‘The rains this year have been heavy and protracted. The cumulative impact on roads and other infrastructure has been severe which makes access to affected communities challenging. Even when the flood waters recede the damage will take time to repair.’   

Two ShelterBox response volunteers flew out to Kenya yesterday to talk to government agencies and the aid community to see whether there is a role for ShelterBox in this ongoing disaster response. Operations Coordinator Jo Arponen says, ‘Initially it seemed the local authorities and the Kenyan Red Cross had enough resources to manage the flooding situation. But now we are hearing that stocks of high quality shelter materials are running low. So our team will be working out what is needed where and how long it might take to get ShelterBox aid into the country. We need to make sure that any aid we send is appropriate and timely.’

ShelterBox has responded in Kenya several times over the years, including in 2010 to flooding in the Turkana region, to widespread drought in 2011/12 when 7,000 tents were supplied, and to help families fleeing conflict in neighbouring countries in 2006 and post-election violence in 2008.

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

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.’

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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.

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‘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.

Shelter Kits Provide The Tools To Rebuild Family Homes

Image of a Shelter kit in a duffle bag


Losing a home, through damage or total destruction, is devastating for anyone, but for some people, their home means more than bricks, mortar and memories. For people like 21-year-old Eliza, who is blind and epileptic, home is a safe place that she can navigate by touch and feel.
When floods and heavy rains deluged towns and villages early this year, her thatched roof was weakened and a large vertical crack appeared at the back of Eliza’s home, destabilising the whole building.
Unfortunately, there was no one who could take in Eliza and her five-year-old son, or even help to fix the crack. She is a single mother and her own parents have passed away from AIDS. Her elderly grandfather and a neighbour provide Eliza and her son with food when they can, but they have little to spare.
A ShelterBox response team were told that Eliza might need assistance. They travelled through dense fields, many of which contain crops ravaged by the floodwaters, to reach Eliza’s mud hut.
Using a shelter kit to repair the damage made by severe rains and flooding meant that Eliza and her five-year-old son were able to stay in their family home. (Credit Steven Tonkinson/ShelterBox)

Using a shelter kit to repair the damage made by severe rains and flooding meant that Eliza and her five-year-old son were able to stay in their family home. (Credit Steven Tonkinson/ShelterBox)


When they arrived, the team decided that instead of moving Eliza and her son into a ShelterBox tent, which would be wholly unfamiliar, they would do their best to make the home habitable again.
They used the contents of a shelter kit, which includes heavy-duty tarpaulins and other tools to make repairs and create temporary shelters, to reinforce the building and weatherproof it against future bad weather.
They also provided the family with mosquito nets, blankets and insulating groundsheets to ensure that that they were safe and comfortable.
In Malawi, our team distributed a variety of aid, from ShelterBoxes containing sturdy tents, to shelter kits and other essentials like mosquito nets and blankets. We tailored our response to meet the different needs of communities and families to make sure that people like Eliza could move on from disaster and return to normal life.

Aniya And The Malawi Floods – ShelterBox Reports


ShelterBox beneficiary Aniya Hassan now has somewhere safe to look after her five orphaned grandchildren.

ShelterBox beneficiary Aniya Hassan now has somewhere safe to look after her five orphaned grandchildren.


Earlier this year, Southern Malawi suffered from some of the worst floods in more than 40 years. For almost three months, ShelterBox response teams worked to reach people in the districts of Zomba, Chikwawa and Mulanje who had lost their homes and possessions to the floodwaters.
One of these people was 90-year-old Aniya Hassan, who takes care of her five orphaned grandchildren by herself. When the river started to rise, one of the children raised the alarm and Aniya called for help. She has trouble walking, so some of the villagers came to help carry her to the safety of higher land. They managed to dig out a few possessions, but the flood washed the rest away.
In this video Aniya talks about the disaster and how much she appreciates the help she has received from ShelterBox and its supporters.