Seeking Shade And Sanctuary In Kara Tepe Camp On Lesbos

A man lies on a Shelterbox  blanket , cover by a Shelterbox ground mat

ShelterBox Kit Originating In Syria Arrives On Lesbos With New Arrivals

As ShelterBox starts putting up large UN style tents in a camp on Lesbos there is a rush for the shade they provide. Also a surprise for our team as well-travelled ShelterBox kit appears, probably having originated in Syria

As a ShelterBox team begins putting up the first of one hundred large UN-style tents on the Greek island of Lesbos, they have seen what instant relief they are bringing to weary families in search of shade from the daytime sun.

ShelterBox Operations Coordinator Sam Hewett is at work in the Kara Tepe transit on Lesbos with Response Volunteer Jennifer Butte-Dahl. They are working with international and local volunteers, as well as people living on the site, to put the tents up.

Sam says, ‘About 150 people moved in straight away. None of them had shelter before moving into any of the tents. People started using the limited shade around the tents the moment they were erected, regardless of whether they were going to move in. We had just finished putting one up, and soon found a child lying in the shadow created by the tent.’

 

And there was a completely unexpected delivery of ShelterBox aid too! Sam and his colleague noticed some ShelterBox-branded groundsheets and blankets in the shade of a tree, in the care of two men. Sam says, ‘They were most likely distributed in northern Syria before the recipients travelled to Turkey and gave them to the two men.’

For more than four years now ShelterBox aid has been distributed across Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and into the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Displaced families and refugees have moved on during this time, and no doubt some of them have now joined the search for asylum in European countries. It is perhaps not so surprising to see ShelterBox aid on the move with its original beneficiaries, but this one sighting indicates how long a journey these people have been on.

Forty ShelterBox tents will be used at Kara Tepe camp, and Sam and Jennifer are in discussions with officials from the local municipality, and with other aid agencies including the UN and Red Cross, about where best to position a further sixty that have already arrived on the island. There are several existing sites that need improving, and there is also the possibility of creating new facilities on the north of the island, near beaches where most people arrive after journeying by sea from the Turkish coast.

There are reports of up to 10,000 new arrivals on Lesbos over last three days.  Others cite boats arriving from Turkey at the rate of one every 1.5 hours.

 

The decision on who gets time in the relative comfort of the new tents is a difficult one. The ShelterBox team is working with a Greek volunteer network and Syrian camp residents who help with translating. They are prioritising children, the elderly, and anyone who is ill. People are staying  anything from a few days up to a week, awaiting papers to allow them to continue their journeys by ferry to the Greek mainland.

You can help by donating here: PLEASE DONATE

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.

ShelterBox Provides Tents For Migrant Crisis in Greece

Young Syrian refugee on the Greek island of Lesbos

Kara Tepe Camp on a hillside outside the main port of Mytilene. ©Rachel Harvey, ShelterBox

 

As Greece buckles under its own economic pressures, it is also under stress from a growing external pressure. Every day boatloads of migrants and refugees fleeing conflict in Syria and Afghanistan arrive from Turkey on islands such as Lesbos. ShelterBox is sending tents to help in overwhelmed transit camps.

It is a short three mile sea journey from the coast of Turkey to the island of Lesbos. But this proximity has made it a stepping stone on a journey of despair. Some days as many as 2,000 migrants arrive in small vessels on the island’s northern beaches. Most are fleeing war in Syria and Afghanistan, with hopes of heading further into Western Europe.

For these families any sense of relief at finally setting foot on European soil is soon crushed by a stark reality. Transit camps on Lesbos and its neighbouring Aegean islands are now overwhelmed, many becoming squalid. Greece, absorbed with its own problems, is ill-equipped to deal with this influx. Its government is nearly broke, local services – where they exist – are struggling, and one person in every four is unemployed.   

Lesbos, third largest of the Greek islands, is still a popular tourist destination. It has only 86,000 residents. But although up to 3,000 holidaymakers a month fly into Mytilene Airport, that traffic is now eclipsed by seaborne migrant arrivals that exceeded 107,000 last month. The UN says that more migrants landed on the island in June than in the whole of the previous year.

Disgarded lifejackets in a bin on the island of Lesbos

Disgarded lifejackets in a bin on the island of Lesbos

On Lesbos, as on nearby Kos, residents and tourists are doing what they can to help, many providing clothing or food. But occasionally tempers run high. Last week migrants on Kos clashed with police in the long, hot queues to obtain registration papers. Migration from Turkey into Greece is now on a larger scale than to the southern Italian islands from Tunisia, or to mainland Spain from Morocco at the mouth of the Mediterranean. It is only the closeness of the Aegean islands to Turkey’s coast that has prevented multiple sea tragedies, most making it to shore on flimsy rubber dinghies provided by people-traffickers, with instructions to  slash them on arrival so they can’t be used again.  

International disaster relief charity ShelterBox has had a team on Lesbos island over recent weeks assessing needs and talking to local officials about how it can help. Now, later this week, a second team will return to oversee the distribution of 100 tents across the islands, with 70 of these allocated to Lesbos. Here they will be allocated to create a new site, and to ease pressures on the existing camps. But ShelterBox is also looking to neighbouring islands.

Response team volunteer Rachel Harvey was part of the original ShelterBox team, and gives this eyewitness reaction. The situation on Lesbos is unlike most other humanitarian crises in that the population needing help is transitory, only staying for as long as it takes to get the necessary papers allowing onward travel.’

More than 107,000 migrants arrived on Lesbos ls June, more than the previous 12 months put together

More than 107,000 migrants arrived on Lesbos ls June, more than the previous 12 months put together

 

‘Hundreds of people, sometimes thousands, arrive on the island in overfull dinghies every day. They are exhausted, often traumatised by recent experiences, and frequently confused about what to do next. Very few want to remain in Greece – Lesbos is simply the geographic gateway to the EU. But while they wait they need somewhere safe to stay. The authorities on Lesbos are doing what they can, but by its own admission the local municipality is ill-equipped to manage a crisis on this scale.’

 

‘Conditions in the two main reception camps have improved – thanks to the efforts of international agencies working with local officials. But the existing tents, provided by Lesbos’s Civilian Protection Force, weren’t designed for constant use over a period of months, and have fallen into disrepair. Ground sheets are soiled, guy ropes knotted and frayed, fly sheets torn.  Some people arrive too late to get a space inside even these meagre shelters, and end up sleeping out in the open. People are visibly shocked by the situation in which they find themselves. One asked me for more bin bags so that he could try to collect some of the festering rubbish that keeps piling up in the corners of the overcrowded camp.’

 

This week ShelterBox Operations Coordinator Sam Hewett and Response Team member Jennifer Butte-Dahl are travelling to Lesbos to work alongside local government and UN refugee experts overseeing aid across the Greek islands.

ShelterBox CEO Alison Wallace says, ‘What a desperate situation, both for the travel-weary migrant families, and for their reluctant hosts. Even if systems were in good shape, it is hard to see how Greek officials could process the numbers that keep arriving every day, and provide shelter and basic provisions for an unforeseeable number of people. Whatever pressures or fears have brought them to these shores, and wherever they are bound next, we will make sure as many as possible get some respite in our tents and from our colleague charities.’

 

World Humanitarian Day – August 19th 2015

Young boy with ShelterBox activity pack

If you are a refugee who has crossed a border to seek safety, international law offers you some protection. But if you are displaced within your own country, you are often beyond help. On World Humanitarian Day disaster relief charity ShelterBox considers the plight of the world’s ‘IDPs’

The benign-sounding acronym ‘IDP’ is jargon for ‘internally displaced persons’. These people are neither true refugees nor migrants. Because they have not crossed a border – often trapped within their own country by fear, poverty or warfare – under international law they are not the responsibility of the United Nations.

An estimated 33.3 million people have been driven from their homes within their own countries because of violence, according to United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). This figure grew by 8.2 million in 2013 alone, the greatest annual increase ever recorded. Conflict is the trigger for most families to run, but natural disasters – flooding, storms, earthquakes, volcanoes, famine – also force millions from their homes each year. In 2013 almost 22 million people fled forces of nature within their own countries – the equivalent of one third of the UK’s population.

Shelterbox tents and Syrian refugees outside a village in Lebanon

Lebanon is home to more than 1 million Syrian refugees

International disaster relief agency ShelterBox provides shelter and vital supplies to families overwhelmed by conflict or catastrophe. Like other aid providers, it finds that IDPs fleeing conflict are among the hardest to reach. A team from ShelterBox plans to return to Iraq in the coming weeks to assess the ever-growing needs, both of refugees and IDPs. It will also consider its ongoing aid provision in Northern Syria, which is an entirely IDP issue.

ShelterBox CEO Alison Wallace says, ‘It is a sad fact of our modern world that tens of millions of people are uprooted from their homes as a result of violence or persecution. But not all these people are refugees or migrants. Those statuses apply only once they have crossed a border. The families and individuals trapped within their country of origin may be on the run for similar reasons, but there are crucial differences in how the international community is able to respond to IDPs.’

Once across an international boundary refugees will normally receive food, shelter and a place of safety. They are protected by international laws and conventions, and the UNHCR and other humanitarian organisations such as ShelterBox work within this legal framework to help refugees restart their lives, maybe even eventually return home. Life may be harsh, but at least it is not without hope.

Alison adds, ‘By contrast, the internally displaced have little protection. Their domestic government may persecute them as enemies of the state, and they can fall prey to rebels and militias. Their fate is in the hands of others – homeless, hopeless, and often persecuted in their home country.’

Syrian school children hold their Shelterbox activity pack aloft.

With the help of Hand In Hand For Syria, ShelterBox has been able to provide aid to IDPs inside Syria

Under international law there are no specific legal instruments relating to IDPs, and there is no United Nations body dedicated to their needs. Charities can help, using determination, partnership and diplomacy, but their donors may be concerned about intervention in internal conflicts. There has been a long-running, but unresolved, global debate on who should be responsible for IDPs. UNHCR, set up to help refugees, is not specifically mandated to cover the needs of IDPs, although the Commission will occasionally find ways to oversee their protection and shelter. Some countries have also passed laws giving IDPs the right to social, economic and legal help. But these are rare.

ShelterBox has long been active in both Iraq and Syria. The UN estimates the number of people displaced by the so-called Islamic State in Iraq has now exceeded 3 million. Last August the world watched in horror as tens of thousands of Yazidi people were trapped in a siege on barren Mount Sinjar, having been forced from their villages. 300 men, women and children died of exposure before international aid reached them. Thousands were killed or kidnapped.

ShelterBox keeps prepositioned stock in Iraq, and continues working to provide shelter for Iraq’s IDPs in the Kurdistan region. But this is a harsh climate, with daytime temperatures currently of 50 degrees or more, and a punishing winter to follow.

In Syria the IDP drama has been unfolding for more than four years. 7.6 million people are thought to be displaced. There are 147 camps in Northern Syria sheltering only a very small fraction of them, just 40,000 households. ShelterBox has been getting tents and other non-food items into northern Syria since December 2012, using experienced in-country partners to navigate this dangerous territory. As the conflict has persisted over many years tents are now wearing out after long-term exposure to extreme sun and icy winters. These tents were meant to be for temporary emergency shelter, but with no ‘next stage’ solutions in sight, agencies have no option but to replace worn-out equipment. ShelterBox will offer replacement tents where it can, regardless of which agency was the original provider.

SchoolBoxes containing education equipment for makeshift schools have also reached pupils in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and one of the oldest continually inhabited sites in the world. Aleppo is now crumbling as warfare and bombing take their toll.

ShelterBox Operations Coordinator Sam Hewett will be one of the team heading back to Iraq shortly. He says, ‘It is dispiriting to have to replace equipment that was only ever intended for short-term use, but there is no end in sight for these desperate families. We need to make them as comfortable as possible as another harsh winter approaches.’

Alison Wallace adds, ‘IDPs deserve our attention, not only because of their bleak existence, but because their status is so ill-defined in international law. Their need for safety, compassion and practical help is exactly the same as for those who have made it across borders to refugee camps, and if ShelterBox has the means to reach out to them, we feel strongly we should do so.’

 

If you would like support our work with refugees and IDPs around the world you can donate here:

www.shelterboxaustralia.org.au

ShelterBox Team Carries Out Assessments In Tanzania

Refugees who have left Burundi due to political conflict travel by boat to Port Kiblizi in neighbouring Tanzania. (Todd Finklestone/ShelterBox)

Refugees who have left Burundi due to political conflict travel by boat to Port Kiblizi in neighbouring Tanzania. (Todd Finklestone/ShelterBox)

 

A ShelterBox response team is currently in Tanzania to assess how we can support refugee camps as political violence in neighbouring Burundi causes 120,000 people to flee the country.
Burundi was thrown into turmoil when the president of the East African country made a bid for a third five-year term in office, which is said to be a violation of the peace deal that ended 13 years of civil war in 2006. This announcement has caused massive political unrest, leading to more than 70 people being killed and hundreds more wounded in opposition protests.
The violence has led tens of thousands of people to cross the border and seek refuge in neighbouring countries. More than 50,000 people have now arrived in Tanzania since the conflict began.
A ShelterBox team, made up of Todd Finklestone (US) and Budge Pountney (UK) are in Tanzania to see how ShelterBox can assist in the extension of the well-established, and now overcrowded, Nyarugusu refugee camp to provide adequate shelter for families arriving in the country.
Earlier this week, the team went to the region of Kigoma near the border with Burundi where many people enter the country on boats run by the Organization for Migration (IOM).
Todd said: ‘Each day, 120 refugees are entering Tanzania through this southern border crossing, excluding the amount of refugees coming from further north.
‘The election in Burundi takes place on 15 July and crossings into Tanzania are expected to increase in the next few weeks.’
The ShelterBox operations team is also looking at the possibility of working with the International Organisation of Migration to bring shelter to the thousands of people who have left their homes but still remain in Burundi.
You can help by donating here: PLEASE DONATE

Sharing Skills To Help Refugees In Cameroon

Image of ShelterBox response team members Todd Finklestone (US) and Ryan Schaafsma (US), along with staff at aid agency IEDA Relief in Cameroon.

ShelterBox response team members Todd Finklestone (US) and Ryan Schaafsma (US), along with staff at aid agency IEDA Relief in Cameroon.

ShelterBox is currently sending 224 ShelterBoxes to the north of Cameroon. The contents will provide shelter and other essential aid to people who have fled neighbouring Nigeria as a result of conflict.
Around 66,000 people have sought refuge in Cameroon following conflict relating to the armed opposition group Boko Haram so far, but there aren’t enough resources to shelter everyone.
The contents of our ShelterBoxes will not only provide families with durable tents, but other items, such as blankets and cooking utensils to help them regain a sense of normality.
Unfortunately, the areas in which this aid is needed are incredibly unstable, which is why ShelterBox is working in partnership with aid agency International Emergency and Development Aid (IEDA Relief) to distribute our aid. IEDA Relief is an organisation that focuses on international development and humanitarian assistance, and has been working to support refugees in Cameroon since September 2014.
ShelterBox has sent a team, made up of Todd Finklestone (US) and Ryan Schaafsma (US) to Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, to carry out training sessions with IEDA Relief on how to use our ShelterBox equipment. They have also shared ShelterBox’s values and methods of distributing aid, to ensure that people receive that same standard of care that we always give.
Watch this time-lapse video showing our partners at IEDA Relief learning how to put up and take down our ShelterBox tents.

The ShelterBoxes will arrive in Cameroon next week and will be distributed in the area of Minawao in the Extreme North region of the country.

Iraq’s Displaced Families To Receive ShelterBox Aid

RAQ KURDISTAN. SEPTEMBER 2013. ShelterBox had aid prepositioned in the Iraq Kurdistan leftover from its last response in the country when it provided shelter for Syrian refugees in August 2013 at Qushtapa camp near Erbil, pictured here. (Simon Clarke/ShelterBox)

IRAQ KURDISTAN. SEPTEMBER 2013. ShelterBox had aid prepositioned in the Iraq Kurdistan leftover from its last response in the country when it provided shelter for Syrian refugees in August 2013 at Qushtapa camp near Erbil, pictured here. (Simon Clarke/ShelterBox)

 

ShelterBox aid prepositioned in the Kurdistan region of Iraq is imminently being distributed by an in-country partner to bring shelter to families displaced by the country’s recent conflict.
Fighting between armed opposition groups has forced many families to head north to Iraq Kurdistan to seek safety.
ShelterBox tents and kitchen sets already stored in the country as contingency stocks whilst the Syria crisis continues to feed instability in the region are now being used to help some of the thousands of Iraqi families internally displaced.
‘Whilst preparing to deliver aid with a long-standing partner, we are also exploring several other options to respond to the needs of large numbers of displaced people in different parts of the region,’ said ShelterBox response team member Phil Duloy in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

‘People need help now’
‘People need help now and having prepositioned aid in the country already has allowed us to respond quickly to some of the shelter needs,’ added response team member Malcolm Shead. ‘A further 1,000 tents are being sent next week to help more people across multiple locations that are experiencing waves of displaced families who are currently sleeping in the open as the collective shelters are full.’
Thank you to all of our kind supporters for enabling us to carry out our disaster relief work and bring shelter and comfort to families made homeless by disaster and humanitarian crisis.

Trying To Ease Suffering In Syria And Iraq Kurdistan

IRAQ KURDISTAN. AUGUST 2013. ShelterBox has been helping Syrian refugees in Iraq Kurdistan for over two years. (Simon Clarke/ShelterBox)

IRAQ KURDISTAN. AUGUST 2013. ShelterBox has been helping Syrian refugees in Iraq Kurdistan for over two years. (Simon Clarke/ShelterBox)

ShelterBox is striving to help families who have been forced from their homes due to conflict but remain within the borders of their own countries in Syria and Iraq.   
These internally displaced persons (IDPs) are just some of the 33.3 million that the United Nations estimates to be the IDP global population in their latest report.
A humanitarian crisis is unfolding in northern Iraq. Reports state that fighting between militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and pro-government forces are driving hundreds of thousands of families from their homes, particularly in Mosul, to seek safety and shelter in Iraq Kurdistan’s peaceful cities of Erbil and Duhok.
ShelterBox has a team in Iraq Kurdistan meeting with partner aid agencies to see how it can support the humanitarian response, and shelter IDPs.
‘Families will be made to uproot again’
‘The IDP situation here is fluid,’ said one of ShelterBox’s operations coordinators currently in the country.  ‘Some families have already returned to Mosul but the fighting is expected to continue, which would increase the number of people in need in the days and weeks to come.
‘Coordination with other aid agencies and government bodies is key in this response to avoid duplications in aid efforts and help those in need more effectively and efficiently.’
IRAQ KURDISTAN. SEPTEMBER 2013. Coordination with other aid agencies has been imperative in ShelterBox's responses in Syria and Iraq Kurdistan. Here is ShelterBox response team member Torstein Nielsen checking tents with local Kurdish partner Barzani Charity Foundation. (ShelterBox)

IRAQ KURDISTAN. SEPTEMBER 2013. Coordination with other aid agencies has been imperative in ShelterBox’s responses in Syria and Iraq Kurdistan. Here is ShelterBox response team member Torstein Nielsen checking tents with local Kurdish partner Barzani Charity Foundation. (ShelterBox)

Meanwhile in Syria there are thought to be 6.5 million displaced people alone where ongoing conflict also causes families to be uprooted several times. Men, women and children face violence daily as they remain within an active conflict zone. Access to food, water, shelter and medical care is often limited as it’s hard for aid agencies to reach them.
Two trucks of ShelterBox aid en route to Syria
However ShelterBox has been providing vital aid to Syrian IDPs for over two years now by working with partner humanitarian organisations that already have a presence in the country.
‘We have just sent two more trucks of ShelterBox aid that will be delivered to IDPs in Syria by our long-term partner charity Hand in Hand for Syria,’ said ShelterBox operations coordinator Sam Hewett. ‘Tents are en route now along with Shelter Repair Kits, mosquito nets, water filters and carriers, blankets, groundsheets, SchoolBoxes and solar lamps.’
‘At first glance this UN report seems to describe a hopeless situation, with conflict on the rise globally, and numbers of refugees at a record high,’ said ShelterBox CEO Alison Wallace. ‘But here, at ShelterBox, our outlook is hopeful because we have the means and experience to help provide families with shelter and essential equipment.
‘The numbers may be daunting, but that positive outlook reflects the attitude of our supporters, who give so generously because they are moved by the plight of these families on the run. ShelterBox is dedicated to doing all it can, wherever it can, to ease the suffering of those fleeing conflict.’
Thank you. 

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.
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‘War Fatigue’ Affecting Response To Syria Crisis

BEKAA VALLEY, LEBANON. November 2013. Of the current Syrian refugees, more than 1.3 million are under the age of 18. Syria’s children, both refugees and those internally displaced, desperately need access to basic necessities like shelter as well as education. (Rebecca Novell/ShelterBox)

BEKAA VALLEY, LEBANON. November 2013. Of the current Syrian refugees, more than 1.3 million are under the age of 18. Syria’s children, both refugees and those internally displaced, desperately need access to basic necessities like shelter as well as education. (Rebecca Novell/ShelterBox)

 

ShelterBox operations coordinator Phil Duloy is in Beirut, Lebanon meeting with partners and checking on aid distributions. Here he discusses ‘war fatigue’.

Three days ago the United Nations (UN) released a statement to the effect that the chemical weapons attacks against Eastern Ghouta and two other Syrian cities last year were almost certainly the work of Syrian Regime forces. If you remember the news at the time, the USA and France were on the brink of launching a bilateral military campaign, but in the face of mounting criticism decided to wait for confirmation that it really was the Regime that was guilty of crossing this ‘red line’.

Perhaps horror is interesting only when it is new. The dearth of western news coverage of the French and American governments’ (non)reaction to the UN statement over the last 72 hours isn’t because there were no enormous explosions, as usual there were plenty. And it isn’t just because the people trying to cover the horrors keep getting kidnapped and killed – Syria being ranked as the world’s single most dangerous place for journalists. There are many Syrian and international journalists still risking their lives and doing their best to provide material that media outlets could in principle use to cover the conflict.

The paucity of coverage given to the UN statement is largely due to ‘war fatigue’ on Syria. With so many failed Geneva Conferences and such an underfunded humanitarian intervention, it’s hard to believe that the situation is anything but hopeless. People experience war fatigue if the war gets old and doesn’t seem to change. But in fact the war in Syria is changing, fast, for the worse. In the last year, the number of people who have fled starvation, fear and death has more than trebled: UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) stats show that on March 9 2013 there were 834,567 refugees. Six days ago there were 2,544,477 and they might well be considered luckier than the families and friends they left behind.

If you are interested in Syria, you can make a difference. Contribute to the humanitarian organisations that are working to help the individuals suffering through no fault of their own.

Find out what ShelterBox is doing to help here and donate today.