Further Aid En Route To Communities Wrecked By Cyclone Pam

Image of Aid being loaded up at ShelterBox's warehouse in Helston, Cornwall

Aid being loaded up at ShelterBox’s warehouse in Helston, Cornwall


A container of aid, including tents, tarpaulins and blankets, has left ShelterBox’s warehouse in Helston, Cornwall this afternoon and will be transported to Vanuatu to help communities in the country recover from the terrible damage caused by Cyclone Pam.

 The category five cyclone struck Vanuatu, which is situated around 1,000 miles east of northern Australia in the South Pacific, earlier this month, causing destruction across the country’s 80 islands. An estimated 90% of buildings were completely destroyed or damaged, while infrastructure and communications were crippled as a result of the tropical storm.

The container of aid, along with 1,000 shelter kits that are already in transit, are destined for the southerly island of Tanna, where ShelterBox response volunteers Ross MacKenzie (NZ) and Peter Pearce (AUS) have been carrying out assessments on the level of damage. Ross said: ‘all the traditional houses have been demolished, while all schools and businesses on the island are either partially or totally destroyed.’

 This gallery shows the extent of damage caused by Cyclone Pam on Vanuatu.


The team will be working with the aid organisation CARE International to help communities in areas of Middle Bush and White Sands, which are located near the foothills of the active volcano Mount Yasur.

 Ross added: ‘In Middle Bush and White Sands areas, we have seen the near-total destruction of homes in every village we visited.’ The mixture of aid items will not only give people emergency shelter, but the shelter kits can also be used to repair existing structures and to help people recover from the disaster’.

 A further four ShelterBox response volunteers, David Hatcher (UK), Greg Moran (AUS), Sally Fletcher (NZ) and James Smith (UK), will be heading to Vanuatu this weekend to help distribute aid to those families in need.

Australian SRT Member Reports From Her First Deployment

Image of Australian SRT member, Peita Berzins conducts a 'train the trainer' session in Malawi

Australian SRT member, Peita Berzins conducts a ‘train the trainer’ session in Malawi

Retired teacher and ShelterBox Response Team volunteer, Peita Berzins has recently returned from her first deployment, to flood-stricken Malawi. Peita, from Bateau Bay on the NSW Central Coast, is the first female Australian ShelterBox Response Team member to deploy overseas and recounts below the steep learning curve of operating in a disaster zone.


With the worst floods in forty years, and hundreds of thousands homeless, ShelterBox deployed from mid-January to this small and very poor, agrarian based African country, assessing where the most need was for our emergency shelter. Many people found safety in school buildings and churches, and after the floods receded began to return to their villages if possible. 

I spent almost three weeks there in March on my first deployment, and can affirm Malawi’s reputation as “the warm heart of Africa.” We had teams in Zomba, Nsanji,  Chikwawa and Phalombe.

On my “nine-dayer” in October 2014, the course you must pass to become a ShelterBox Response Team member, a wise SRT said that deployment is “like drinking from a water hydrant…full on!” And my time in Malawi was exactly that….a huge learning curve of new environments, witnessing displaced, stoic villagers, collapsed mud brick houses, warm handshakes and laughter, rounds of meetings with officials, local chiefs and Traditional Authorities, government and other Non-Government Organisations, women with colourful ‘chitenje’ wrapping their babies tight around their back, intense heat and dripping perspiration, green hills and fields of corn, paperwork and phone calls, and our experienced driver Jonathan negotiating bad roads and avoiding a myriad of pedestrians and cyclists.


My experience was quite varied, spending some days in Blantyre, where ShelterBox ICC (In Country Coordinator), Alice Jefferson was based, and journeying to assess the outlying district Phalombe, past the huge Mulanji Mountain, with waterfalls cascading down. Finally, we were based in Chikwawa in the south, where my two-person team, after some intense negotiations with local officials, was able to distribute 124 ShelterBoxes to vulnerable households.

The situation in Chikwawa differed to other districts like Zomba, because land rights was a troubling issue. Farmers in the lowlands had their homes swept away in the floods, and the government indicated they must relocate to higher ground, which caused conflict as this land was owned by another Traditional Authority. Detailed verification of those most in need of shelter – the elderly and infirm, single-headed households, lactating mothers – was required. Some desperate people missed out, and this was hard to decide.

Image of Peita Demonstrating the contents of a ShelterBox to beneficiaries

Demonstrating the contents of a ShelterBox to beneficiaries

Another key learning experience for me was how crucial it is to work closely within the cluster of other emergency agencies. Shelter must coordinate with WASH groups ( Water and Sanitation Hygiene), which, for example UNICEF may help arrange. A camp can only be set up if WASH is in place, with a water source like a bore, latrines and bathing facilities. There was a real danger of disease like cholera? spreading through the camps.

A special moment was issuing ownership certificates to Kalima village. These 29 vulnerable households had been living in school outbuildings for two months. This ShelterBox certificate affirms that the tent with all the NFIs (Non Food Items) like solar lamps, blankets, water containers, cooking pots and tools, donated by generous people around the world, is now their property. The joy of these people, as each household head came forward to receive the certificate, was very moving. A sort of dance ensued as I mirrored the recipient’s bow or curtsy, and soon there was much laughter and the women began to uulate, a kind of throaty cry of happiness.

Happy beneficiaries in Malawi

Happy beneficiaries in Malawi

It is only due to donor generosity that ShelterBox can continue this important work, tailoring the need for the many people suffering around the world after disaster has struck. It is a privilege to volunteer as a ShelterBox Response Team member, and I look forward to my next deployment and the ensuing roller coaster of learning, experience and aiding beneficiaries.


ShelterBox is currently distributing 1,000 ShelterBoxes, 650 Shelter Kits and 500 tarpaulins in Malawi. You can help us respond to disasters and humanitarian crises by donating here: PLEASE DONATE

ShelterBox Working With CARE in Vanuatu

A Vanuatu woman stands by a massive tree which crushed a nearby vehicle (CARE/Tom Perry)

A Vanuatu woman stands by a massive tree which crushed a nearby vehicle (CARE/Tom Perry)

Last week, as news of the scale of the Typhoon was starting to become clear, the ShelterBox Operations Department approached the government of Vanuatu, other aid agencies and the humanitarian departments of the governments of Australia and New Zealand- which often take an active role in supporting disaster responses in the pacific. These parties were all informed of ShelterBox’s active interest and material capacity to provide assistance in the wake of the storm.

ShelterBox is planning to send an initial response of 1,000 IFRC (International Federation of the Red Cross) specification shelter kits to Vanuatu from prepositioned stocks.

ShelterBox response team members, Peter Pearce (AUS) and Ross Mackenzie (NZ), arrived in Vanuatu and met with CARE International on Wednesday to discuss our response. It is planned that CARE International will distribute the shelter kits on behalf of ShelterBox. A team from CARE international have carried out an initial assessment of the island, which suggests that there are approximately 5,000 people in need of assistance. They are reporting that they believe shelter kits and blankets to be the most appropriate form of aid for this disaster.

Ross Mackenzie said: ‘The modern buildings have mostly suffered roof damage, but all the traditional houses have been demolished. All schools and business on the island are either partially or totally destroyed.

CARE, who will be our implementing partner for this response, is also the lead international agency operating on the island of Tanna. The response on this island will be divided up into two areas of responsibility, with World Vision working in the north west and south areas, while CARE focuses on the north east of the island around the Yasur Volcano, White Sands and Middle Brush, where approximately 1,000 families have been affected.

Information on Shelter Kits:

ShelterBox shelter repair kit v2[1]


ShelterBox uses the IFRC shelter kit, which consists of 2 tarpaulins, rope, handsaw, roofing nails, shovel, hoe, shears, large nails, small nails, wire and a claw hammer. They are a flexible solution; they can be combined with a variety of locally available materials such as timber, bamboo, and roofing sheets to create shelters, as well as providing the means to continue with other aspects of life.

Shelter kits are fast and simple to deploy; pre-packaged and prepositioned shelter kits can be rapidly deployed internationally and, because of their relatively small size, are easier to transport and distribute in situations when the local logistics hubs have been adversely affected.

First impressions from Ross Mackenzie, part of the ShelterBox Response Team that arrived in Vanuatu on Wednesday:

Flying in yesterday, the view out of the window was one of total devastation – no lush, tropical trees and the damage to buildings varied from minor damage to total destruction.


ShelterBox Mobilises Response Team & Aid For Vanuatu

Image of cyclone damage in vanuatu


ShelterBox is mobilising aid and a Response Team from Australia and New Zealand as the Pacific paradise of Vanuatu counts the awful cost of Cyclone Pam


As news emerges of the scale of devastation caused by one of the worst Pacific storms ever recorded, with many of Vanuatu’s 260,000 population now said to be homeless, emergency shelter experts, ShelterBox have this morning agreed plans for aid distribution with colleague charity CARE International.

The United Nations Humanitarian Office says that on the main island of Efate an estimated 90 per cent of structures are either damaged or destroyed, and thousands of people are sheltering in over 25 evacuation centres across the provinces of Efate, Torba and Penama.

1,000 ShelterBox shelter kits, which will help with repair and waterproofing of damaged buildings, are to be dispatched from storage at Subang Aiport near Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. The kits, now a standard element of ShelterBox’s range of aid, are designed to Red Cross specifications.

Vanuatu’s key air hub, Bauerfield International Airport near the capital Port Vila, has had its runway cleared of floodwater only a few hours ago. Aid flights from Australia and New Zealand Air Forces are now able to land, although commercial flights remain suspended. ShelterBox response team members Ross Mackenzie from New Zealand and Peter Pearce from Australia are expected to be able to fly to Vanuatu within days to make preparations for ShelterBox aid distribution.

ShelterBox Operational Manager Alf Evans says, ‘We have been in frequent touch with other aid agencies, making clear our willingness and capability to help. Our initial response will see the 1,000 shelter kits deployed from Subang, and distributed with CARE International. Once we have ShelterBox response team members on the ground we will be aiming to make further contributions to partnership work on shelter and repair.’

First images from Port Vila show most buildings to be badly damaged, and a pilot flying over some of Vanuatu’s 65 inhabited islands reported similar scenes of destruction across remote communities. There is a communications blackout beyond Port Vila, so it is hard to assess the extent of damage or the humanitarian need, though aid workers on the ground have already likened it to Typhoon Haiyan that struck the Philippines 16 months ago.

Vanuatu’s President Baldwin Lonsdale, who is in Japan attending a conference on disaster reduction, described the cyclone as a ‘monster’. He thanked the international aid community for their quick response. Many of the country’s essential services, including schools, hospitals and power generation, are in disarray. The confirmed death toll of eight people is expected to rise sharply as rescuers reach outlying communities.

Cyclone Pam is a category five storm, with winds now said to have peaked at 185mph. It veered off its expected course and struck Vanuatu early on Saturday, local time. It is now heading towards New Zealand, and though it has weakened severe weather warnings have been issued.

Japan Earthquake Remembered



On March 11, 2011 a massive earthquake, measuring 8.9 in magnitude, struck off the northeastern coast of Japan. 
The earthquake triggered a 10 metre high tsunami that caused massive destruction across the districts of Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate.
Around 19,000 people died and half a million were left homeless. 210,000 people were evacuated from the area around the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which was damaged during the tsunami, and many were left without proper shelter, water, food or heat for days.
 The scale of the devastation was so enormous that the Japanese government called for international assistance. Within a day, ShelterBox had sent a response team, made of volunteers from Australia, France and the US, to the country, where we were one of the first aid organisations to arrive.
Four days later, the first ShelterBoxes arrived in Japan and the response team worked with the British Embassy and the British and US military to help deliver shelter to families without homes.
The team faced damaged roads, power failures, deep snow and plummeting temperatures. However, local Rotarians and authorities provided vital logistical support to help them respond quickly and efficiently.

This slideshow reveals the extent of the damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and also shows some of the communities we were able to provide with ShelterBox aid.


Thanks to all of our supporters, we were able to deliver 1,680 ShelterBoxes, giving shelter and a sense of normality to thousands of families across Japan. Thank you.

Video: Flash Floods And Broken Bridges Create Extra Challenges In Malawi

ShelterBox response team members are helped to transport ShelterBoxes over a large river in Malawi by boat, rather than risk the fragile bridge. (ShelterBox/Rebecca Swist)

ShelterBox response team members are helped to transport ShelterBoxes over a large river in Malawi by boat, rather than risk the fragile bridge. (ShelterBox/Rebecca Swist)

As the rain continues to fall and the floodwaters keep rising in Southern Malawi, ShelterBox response teams have been working hard to deliver vital aid to communities that have lost their homes, despite various challenges.
Since mid-January, Malawi has been facing some of the worst flooding in 40 years, which has left more than 230,000 people without homes and destroyed countless farms and livelihoods.
Response volunteer Liz Odell is part of a team working in the Malawian district of Zomba, where they’ve faced several challenges reaching remote communities near Lake Chilwa.
In this video, she describes how flash flooding, impassible roads and washed-away bridges mean that the teams have had to find alternative methods to transport ShelterBoxes to families in need of shelter.

Despite such difficulties, the teams are continuing to provide aid in Zomba and Chikwawa – another heavily flooded district. So far, we have been able to deliver ShelterBoxes to almost 400 families.
In addition to our specifically designed tents, the boxes also contain mosquito nets and water purification units that will help to prevent diseases such as malaria and cholera, which thrive in areas affected by flooding.

Video: Assessing The Need For Shelter In Malawi

Image of Families displaced in Malawi after some of the worst flooding in more than 40 years (Johnny O'Shea/ShelterBox)

Families displaced in Malawi after some of the worst flooding in more than 40 years (Johnny O’Shea/ShelterBox)


When ShelterBox response team members Johnny O’Shea (UK) and Sallie Buck (UK) arrived in Malawi last month, their role was to get a clear picture of the devastation caused by flooding in the south of the country and to identify the areas where people were most in need of shelter
The flooding, which is thought to be the worst in 40 years, has already displaced more than 230,000 people and has left many communities inaccessible.
This video shows Sallie and Johnny’s journey through the country to see the true extent of the flooding, where they encounter overcrowded camps as well as schools being used as emergency shelters.

Three ShelterBox response teams are currently in the process of distributing aid to people in the districts of Chikwawa, Zomba and Phalombe. Experienced Australian SRT member, Peter Pearce has flown out to lead one of the teams on the ground.

Video: Reaching Remote Communities In Malaysia

Image of riverboat full of Shelterboxes in Malaysia


ShelterBox has been working in Malaysia since late last year to help people who have suffered from some of the worst flooding in more than 40 years.  
Response volunteers split into different teams to provide aid to as many affected areas as possible.  One team, made up of Ben Julian (UK) and Torstein Nielsen (NOR) travelled to the eastern state of Pahang where homes, villages and roads were completely destroyed, leaving whole communities homeless and inaccessible.
This video shows the extent of devastation caused by the floodwaters and the team’s journey upriver to deliver aid with the assistance of the Special Malaysia Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (SMART) to people who had lost everything.
Thanks to all of our supporters worldwide for helping us bring vital shelter to these families in need.
You can help by donating here: PLEASE DONATE

Floods In Malawi Bring Hidden Dangers

Large parts of Southern Malawi still remain flooded and thousands of people have lost their homes and possessions. (Johnny O'Shea/ShelterBox)

Large parts of Southern Malawi still remain flooded and thousands of people have lost their homes and possessions. (Johnny O’Shea/ShelterBox)

Throughout the course of a year, the landlocked country of Malawi is regularly hit by floods and droughts, but this year’s deluge is said to be the worst in 40 years as a month’s worth of rain fell in just a day.

A ShelterBox response team, made up of Johnny O’Shea (UK) and Sallie Buck (UK) have flown to Malawi to see how ShelterBox can best help as reports suggest that more than 174,000 people have had to leave their homes and that 638,000 people have been affected in all.

The team has been looking at the need for shelter in several districts in the south of the country, including Chikwawa, where the scale of the damage is only starting to emerge.

Johnny said: ‘We visited the village of Khungubwe, which had been inaccessible by road, and found 2,700 people housed in an emergency centre that only had two rudimentary latrines for all of those people.

‘The people have come from six villages about six kilometres away, which were washed away by the flash floods that happened earlier this month. While they escaped, 24 friends and family members are still missing.’

The team found that many of the people staying in the emergency camp are too scared to return to their villages in case the flooding happens again, but the situation in the camp is not much better as there is little food or clean water and malaria is rife.

In Machenga, 1,679 people, including 92 pregnant women and 175 children under the age of five, are camping out in a school. There is little shelter from the scorching heat and one unreliable bore hole for drinking water.

The third village the team visited was Konzere, where they heard how people climbed onto the roofs of their houses to escape the rising floods. When the waters got too high, they were forced to climb into the trees and cling on as they watched their homes slide away. Some people waited for three days without food or water before being rescued.

For those that have escaped the floodwaters, the nightmare continues. 

Johnny said: ‘Many people don’t want to return to their villages as they say that they are too dangerous, but conditions in some of the temporary camps are just as frightening, with reports of crocodile attacks and fatal cases of malaria.’

ShelterBox is coordinating with other aid agencies working in the country to establish the best way of delivering aid. By working together, it means that more people can be reached and will be provided with the most suitable equipment.

ShelterBox is currently looking to send out a mixture of aid, including ShelterBoxes and Shelter repair kits, and will distribute the items depending on need.

You can help by donating here: PLEASE DONATE

Receding Floodwaters Reveal The Extent Of The Damage In Malaysia

ShelterBox response team member Ben Julian standing in the remains of a house devastated by flooding in Pahang, Malaysia

ShelterBox response team member Ben Julian standing in the remains of a house devastated by flooding in Pahang, Malaysia

Since late December, ShelterBox response volunteers have been in Malaysia helping provide shelter for people who have lost their homes after some of the worst flooding seen in at least 50 years.
In the eastern state of Pahang, where more than 130,000 people had been evacuated, a team made up of volunteers Torstein Nielsen (NOR) and Ben Julian (UK) found that the effects of the flooding have reached further than the waters themselves.
While people have been helping each other as well as they can, repairing and cleaning community centres, schools and homes, the team learnt about remote communities situated in the jungle inaccessible by road that had also been badly affected by the floods. They travelled by road and boat to see if ShelterBox could be of help.
Torstein said: ‘We met people who live the traditional way that their ancestors have for thousands of years and are used to managing their natural environment, but have never seen such high flood waters in living memory.
‘While people in the lowlands had time to evacuate, people living further north in the highlands didn’t have much time before the waters reached their villages.’
ransporting ShelterBoxes by boat to remote communities in Pahang, Malaysia

Transporting ShelterBoxes by boat to remote communities in Pahang, Malaysia


In the village of Kuala Sat, the response team met Zul Kefli, in what used to be his family house. Despite having a strong building made of concrete, his home wasn’t able to stand up to the massive power of the floodwaters and now only the floor remains.
The family managed to leave in time, but had to leave all of their belongings behind. When Zul returned to his home three days later, he found that the house had been completely washed away, along with all of its contents. His family all survived, but they had lost everything.
Just a few hundred metres away, the team met Farizul, whose house had been totally submerged by the flood. While the house was still standing, it was structurally unsound and too dangerous to go inside. All of the contents had been destroyed by mud and water and the family were sheltering in poor, cramped conditions.
Both families, along with others in this remote part of Malaysia, have now received ShelterBoxes. They contain essential items such as a tent, blankets and cooking utensils and will provide people with a safe, comfortable shelter while they rebuild and repair their homes.