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

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

Boxing Day Tsunami Remembered – The ShelterBox Response Team

ShelterBoxes arriving on Simeulue Island.

ShelterBoxes arriving on Simeulue Island.

Experience from our first few deployments had led us to start tailoring our aid. We saw it as an essential aspect to our growth as a charity, but we soon realised that as we began to respond to more disasters, ShelterBox as a charity had to do more. Towards the end of 2004, the idea of changing the dynamic of the charity and sending people out into the disaster zones had been floated amongst board members, but was not prioritised at the time. Then the Boxing Day Tsunami struck.

We had been inundated with support, media coverage and donations, so we began to send 200 boxes out at a time and decided that people were needed to go out with them to monitor and marshal the distribution of the millions of pounds worth of aid. Unlike other aid agencies, we had never before sent a team out to the disaster zone, but had relied on our Rotary contacts in the affected countries to distribute the aid on our behalf.

Having no official training in place, we called on members of the blue-light services to make our teams up. One such member was Steve Brown, a local firefighter. It was from Steve’s colleague Dave Pascoe that he heard about the call-to-arms ShelterBox had made.

The two of them, along with two other blue-light staff were called down to ShelterBox headquarters and were given their brief: ‘Get the aid out to as many people as possible!’ They then dashed around the South West equipping themselves as much as possible for the duration of their two-week deployment.

Steve said: ‘It was so we wouldn’t become a drain on the local resources.’

The team were conscious to be as self-sufficient as possible to not hinder the local communities trying to establish themselves after the disaster. The teams were named the 4Rs, a Rotary initiative that stood for Rotary, Reconnaissance, Repair and Recover. 

‘During the following four to five days, we literally spent the time packing as many boxes as possible whilst waiting for our flight out of Culdrose to Heathrow. This was arranged by the brand-new logistics team, consisting of grounded helicopter pilots from RNAS Culdrose. By early January we were out and on the ground in Sri Lanka.’

‘It was bizarre really when we landed in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It was as if it was business as normal for the locals as they were hardly damaged at all. We had prepared ourselves to face destruction as soon as we landed, but we didn’t.

‘When we landed we were keen to get going and get the boxes out, but we had to wait to meet with our consignee, a tea-farmer, who was prepared to help distribute the boxes around the country. It was during this wait that we went for a walk along the beach and it was here that we saw the first signs of water damage.

‘We could see the difference in tide lines, a train line alongside the beach had been broken apart, and as we were going further up the coast, we finally saw the size of the destruction. It was like Armageddon!’

Another challenge we faced was the pitching of the tents. The team learnt that the families wanted the tents to be pitched on the foundations of their old homes. Steve tried explaining to the locals that the pegs wouldn’t go into the concrete foundations and tried to pitch them on the ground by the foundations instead. The locals went one step further and decided to collect as many rocks as possible to weigh the guide ropes and sides of the tents down whilst sitting on top of their foundations. In this instance, both the locals and the teams learnt how to cooperate together.

‘I will never forget the gratitude we were shown by the locals. Dave and I were pitching a tent for an extended family in the blistering heat. We looked up and saw one of the children climbing a tree and knocking two coconuts down for us. He then split them for us and gave them to us, before thinking of helping his extended family’s thirst. We were then presented with two intact coke cans that his father had produced, seemingly out of nowhere.’

Over time the 4Rs morphed into ShelterBox response teams (SRTs) as other NGOs in the field weren’t always aware of the Rotary connection to the charity. The SRTs became an established part of ShelterBox’s response, ready to face the next disaster, which happened later that year with Hurricane Katrina in America and an earthquake in the Kashmir region of Pakistan. In total ShelterBox sent out more than 22,000 boxes for the disasters in 2005, with the majority going towards Tsunami relief efforts.

It is for these reasons the tsunami changed us as a charity in our efforts to help better the lives of the victims. We established a logistics department to organize our aid and deployments. We started sending volunteers out to the disaster zone and we were able to meet the demands of aid relief for the survivors.

Our response teams assisted in distributing the aid and ensuring those families in desperate need received the tools in which to rebuild their lives with dignity whilst providing shelter to them. It is because of the efforts of all those who volunteered back when we desperately needed it that ShelterBox has become the charity we are today. And for that we thank you!

World Malaria Day: Causes And Protection

SRI LANKA. 16 JUN 2009. An estimated 150,000 people were displaced as a result of the civil war being fought in Sri Lanka. After initial assessments ShelterBox sent aid to the region, including mosquito nets. (Mike Greenslade/ShelterBox)

SRI LANKA. 16 JUN 2009. An estimated 150,000 people were displaced as a result of the civil war being fought in Sri Lanka. After initial assessments ShelterBox sent aid to the region, including mosquito nets. (Mike Greenslade/ShelterBox)


World Malaria Day is marked across the globe on 25 April to acknowledge the remarkable progress that the global development community has made in combatting Malaria. But the fight against this terrible disease continues. 

Malaria causes an estimated 627,000 people to lose their lives every year, mainly children under five years of age in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2013, 97 countries had an ongoing malaria transmission. 

Parasites cause the life-threatening disease, which are transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes that bite mainly between dusk and dawn. 

Transmission is more intense in places where the mosquito prefers to bite humans rather than other animals and where the mosquito lifespan is longer. In the latter case, the parasite has time to complete its development inside the mosquito. For example, the long lifespan and strong human-biting habit of the African vector species is the main reason why about 90% of the world’s malaria deaths are in Africa. 

Climatic conditions may affect the number and survival of mosquitoes, such as rainfall patterns, temperature and humidity. In many places, transmission is seasonal, with the peak during and just after the rainy season, which is why they can be rife during storms and flooding. Malaria epidemics can occur when climate and other conditions suddenly favour transmission in areas where people have little or no immunity to malaria. They can also occur when people with low immunity move into areas with intense malaria transmission, for instance to find work, or as refugees.

ZIMBABWE. 12 APR 2014. ShelterBox Response Team member, Phil Wheeler (UK), helps to set up a disaster relief tent in the Chingwizi camp. (Sharon Donald/ShelterBox).

ZIMBABWE. 12 APR 2014. ShelterBox Response Team member, Phil Wheeler (UK), helps to set up a disaster relief tent in the Chingwizi camp. (Sharon Donald/ShelterBox).

Human immunity is another important factor, especially among adults in areas of moderate or intense transmission conditions. Partial immunity is developed over years of exposure, and while it never provides complete protection, it does reduce the risk that malaria infection will cause severe disease. For this reason, most malaria deaths in Africa occur in young children, whereas in areas with less transmission and low immunity, all age groups are at risk. 

Malaria is preventable and curable 

Malaria is preventable and curable. Increased malaria prevention and control measures are dramatically reducing the malaria burden in many places such as insecticide-treated mosquito nets. 

‘In areas where protection is needed, ShelterBox provides Olyset Nets, an award winning long-lasting insecticidal net that uses hybrid polymer and controlled insecticide release technology to repel, kill and prevent mosquitos from biting for up to five years,’ said ShelterBox Supply Chain Manager Shane Revill. 

‘Put more simply, the net works to protect people sleeping under the Olyset Nets from mosquitos as liquid permethrin slowly releases into polyethylene fibres, a tough material and substantial physical barrier.’ 

Mosquito nets help protect and offer comfort 

The contact with the insecticide causes mosquitoes to leave without taking a blood meal and cause them to be knockdown or die. Families affected by disaster or humanitarian crisis are not only protected but also have a greater level of comfort. The Olyset Net has protected nearly 800 million people since it received the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation in 2001. 

ShelterBox tents can also protect people against mosquito bites and disease, an example being in Zimbabwe recently.

ZIMBABWE. 12 APR 2014. The ShelterBox disaster relief tents help to reduce the risk of malaria. (Sharon Donald/ShelterBox).

ZIMBABWE. 12 APR 2014. The ShelterBox disaster relief tents help to reduce the risk of malaria. (Sharon Donald/ShelterBox).

‘ShelterBox tents themselves are mosquito nets and it’s really important to emphasise this to people who will be living in the tent,’ said Response Team member Phil Wheeler who was overseeing distributions in Zimbabwe, where Malaria is rife. ‘The inner door is netted and the windows are also netted. At first many people don’t realise this feature of the tent, but the moment they learn that they can better protect their children is often the same moment that parents express their most admiration for their new home. 

‘Sense of security and relief’ 

‘Malaria has been prevalent in Chingwizi camp, and with the dry season approaching, malaria cases increase. This means that countless families will be much safer in ShelterBox tents than anywhere else in the camp, and our equipment will help contain the spread of the disease. As someone who has had malaria, I know full well the sense of security and relief that being in a net brings every night.’

Menik Farm Camp in Sri Lanka to Close

What used to be one of the world’s largest internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps, Menik Farm in northern Sri Lanka where ShelterBox delivered tents to three years ago, is to close at the end of September, according to government officials.

The 30-year civil war between the Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was coming to a head in April 2009 with over 150,000 IDPs seeking refuge in the Vavuniya area in the Northern Province.

Every day more displaced families were reaching camps established by several other aid organisations already in country and the need for emergency shelter was ongoing.

Consequently, the Government of Sri Lanka asked ShelterBox to work with aid agency Habitat for Humanity (HFH) to help fill this void.

‘We worked at Menik Farm where we set up tents for particularly vulnerable families like those with disabled or young children, pregnant women, injured persons or elderly,’ said ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) member Mike Greenslade (AU), who worked with David Webber (UK), John Mackie (US) and John Cordell (US) to distribute a total of 448 boxes. “David and I did the ground work but the 2 Johns did all the hard work, sleeping in a derelict building, living off ration packs, cycling through military checkpoints to get to and from the camp and working long hour in extreme heat to get the tents up. My hat goes off them for a sterling effort” added Mike

Respond quickly 

ShelterBox was able to respond quickly to the Government’s request by sending boxes that were prepositioned in Dubai and Singapore, cutting travelling time down dramatically.

Below is a slideshow of some of Mike’s images shot on his second visit.

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Read more here: SRI LANKA