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.’ 

ShelterBox Responds To Growing Humanitarian Crisis In Greece

Young Syrian refugee on the Greek island of Lesbos

A family shelters in cramped conditions on the island of Lesbos (Rachel Harvey/ShelterBox)

Thousands of people, many of whom are fleeing conflict from countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, are arriving in Greece each day with few belongings and no form of shelter. While this is just a temporary stop for many, the sheer number of people arriving has caused a strain on several Greek islands, especially those like Lesbos, which lies only three miles away from the Turkish mainland.

ShelterBox response team member Rachel Harvey (UK) has recently returned from Greece, where she and fellow teammate Amber Cottrell-Jury (NZ) visited to make assessments on how ShelterBox could help alleviate the growing crisis. Here she tells us about the situation on Lesbos and how ShelterBox is working to make sure that while people are on the island, they have somewhere safe to shelter and rest.

‘The beautiful Greek holiday island of Lesbos in is not, perhaps, the most obvious destination for a ShelterBox response team. Nor is the situation in the eastern Aegean a typical humanitarian crisis.

‘Seasoned aid workers, veterans of the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the refugee camps of Jordan, describe the situation in Greece as one of the most complex and confounding they have witnessed. Few thought they would ever be working inside the European Union (EU), spending long days in dusty, hot, emergency reception camps and evenings in air-conditioned tourist cafés. The juxtapositions are stark and uncomfortable.

‘Everyday hundreds, sometimes as many as two thousand, people arrive on Lesbos’ northern beaches. The journey across the water from Turkey usually takes around an hour and a half, depending on conditions at sea. The flimsy rubber dinghies are invariably over crowded and the majority of passengers can’t swim.

‘The experience is terrifying. Another trauma added to the layers that many of the displaced have accumulated through war in Syria or South Sudan, insecurity in Afghanistan or Pakistan.

‘One man told me: “It was a nightmare. I don’t know how we got through that trip.”

‘Whatever the semantics of their legal status, migrants or refugees, those arriving in Greece’s eastern islands have one thing in common – a desire to escape the past and seek new lives in Europe. Greece is rarely their destination of choice. It is simply the gateway to the EU. But in order to continue their journeys, arrivals in Lesbos must first go through a process to determine their identity and claim of asylum. That may take a few days or a few weeks. In the meantime they need somewhere safe to stay.

‘Aid organisations such as Médecins Sans Frontières, the International Rescue Committee, the UN refugee Agency and now ShelterBox are working in support of the local municipality on Lesbos to try to improve conditions in the overcrowded camps. Over time, fresh water taps and open air showers have been fitted, latrines have been upgraded, rubbish collections organised and health clinics provided.

‘Things are slowly improving but it’s a challenge to assess properly the needs of a population that is constantly changing as people come and go. The numbers fluctuate. One day there seem to be children everywhere. The next they and their families are gone, having received the precious document that allows them to travel on to Athens for the next stage of processing.


The Kara Tepe camp on Lesbos. (Rachel Harvey/ShelterBox)

The Kara Tepe camp on Lesbos. (Rachel Harvey/ShelterBox)


‘The local Civilian Protection Force has generously provided some tents for the Kara Tepe camp, which sits on a hillside a few miles outside the main port of Mytelene. Part olive grove, part motorbike training ground, it is hardly an ideal site for an emergency camp. The heat, dust, constant use, and sheer number of people have taken a heavy toll on the tents that were never designed for this scenario. Pieces of ripped canvas flap in the breeze, the acrid smell of soiled groundsheets fills the nostrils and frayed guy ropes are held down with heavy boulders or tied around the branches of the olive trees, doubling as handy washing lines.

‘This is where ShelterBox can make a difference. Working alongside the local government and partner agencies, we are planning to replace and supplement the existing tents with robust family sized alternatives. Over the next couple of months, thousands of people will benefit from the protection they offer.

‘Each individual person or family may only spend a few nights in the new tents. But those few nights will now at least provide a chance for proper rest and recovery after weeks, sometimes months, of precarious travel in search of a better, but still uncertain future.’

A second ShelterBox response team, made up of Sam Hewett (UK) and Jennifer Butte-Dahl, have now arrived in Greece to oversee the distribution of 100 tents, which are due to arrive shortly. On Lesbos, 70 tents will be used to create a new site to ease pressure on the existing reception camps. In addition to this, the team will also look at ways to support neighbouring islands too.

International Women’s Day 2014: Inspiring Change

KENYA. JULY 2011. ShelterBox Response Team volunteer Lizzy Treglown helping bring emergency shelter and aid to families affected by drought and conflict.

KENYA. JULY 2011. ShelterBox Response Team volunteer Lizzy Treglown helping bring emergency shelter and aid to families affected by drought and conflict.


Every year thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements on 8 March – International Women’s Day. 
‘Inspiring Change’ is this year’s theme encouraging advocacy for women’s advancement everywhere in every way. It calls for challenging the status quo for women’s equality and vigilance inspiring positive change.
ShelterBox has always encouraged women in communities affected by disaster to be involved in tent training and decision-making processes. In this video, ShelterBox Response Team volunteer Rachel Harvey speaks more about this from the Philippines when she was part of a team responding to the recent devastating Typhoon Haiyan.

ShelterBox will continue to support brave women who have been forced from their homes through disaster or humanitarian crisis, like Syrian refugee Ahed who is living in a ShelterBox tent in Lebanon. Their strength is always inspiring.

As always, thank you for supporting ShelterBox.


ShelterBox Quick to Monitor China Earthquake

ShelterBox responded to the earthquake that hit China's Qinghai Province in April 2010, sending 100 ShelterBoxes.

ShelterBox responded to the earthquake that hit China’s Qinghai Province in April 2010, sending 100 ShelterBoxes.


ShelterBox was quick to respond as alerts came through from various sources on 22 July about two earthquakes hitting China’s western Gansu province, which injured hundreds of people and damaged hundreds of thousands of buildings causing 225,000 people to be relocated. 
The first quake measured 5.9 in magnitude, which was followed by hundreds of aftershocks, including a particularly strong one at 5.6 in magnitude creating the second big tremor, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
‘Soon after we received automated alerts highlighting the seismic activity, one of our ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) members who is currently living in China, Rachel Harvey (UK), contacted us with initial information from the region,’ said ShelterBox Operations Coordinator Alice Jefferson. ‘This enabled us to receive accurate and timely data, crucial to our decision of whether to send an assessment SRT.’
Through Rachel’s reports, as well as reading media reports and other humanitarian organisation’s updates, the ShelterBox Operations department was able to monitor the situation rapidly and effectively.
‘Emergency-response plan’
‘Through the information we were getting, it became apparent fairly early on after the disaster that the China Earthquake Administration had started an emergency-response plan,’ continued Alice. ‘Officials from the civil affairs, transportation and earthquake departments were visiting local towns to assess the damage and trained rescue teams with dogs were already on the scene. Hundreds of troops were also reported to have been deployed to assist as well as the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC).
‘The report published by RCSC later that day, with the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), determined that external assistance was not required. We are therefore continuing to monitor the disaster but are not sending an SRT to carry out needs assessments.’
Work around the clock
The ShelterBox Operations Team work around the clock continuously monitoring disasters enabling the charity to be in a position to respond rapidly and efficiently when disaster strikes.