Santa Barbara-based ShelterBox USA raises awareness about climate and disasters
Kerri Murray has been on the scene when natural disasters drive people from their homes.
“The climate crisis is a human crisis … More than 104 million people are displaced around the world due to disasters and conflict situations,” the Summerland resident told the News-Press as leaders from G-7 countries meet this weekend for their first summit since 2019 in Cornwall, England. That is the location of the international headquarters of ShelterBox, a nonprofit providing humanitarian aid tents/shelters and relief for displaced people.
Ms. Murray is president of Santa Barbara-based ShelterBox USA.
Ms. Murray said ShelterBox is stressing the need to tackle climate change on billboards in Cornwall during the G-7 summit, which is being attended by President Joe Biden.
“We’ve gotten a lot of press in the U.K.,” Ms. Murray said, noting displaced people urgently need help because of disasters, wars and COVID-19. “Tens of millions of people are losing their homes every year to emergencies.
“When people think of the landscape of climate change, they think of deserts, droughts and polar bears on ice caps that are melting,” Ms. Murray said, explaining that the crisis is bigger than that. “It (climate change) is creating an unprecedented need for emergency shelters around the world. It’s intensifying because of the weather, war zones and conflict situations.
“We’re serving on the frontlines during disasters, so we’re seeing more and more communities experiencing disaster consequences,” Ms. Murray said. “Eighty-three percent of all emergencies are caused by extreme weather and climate, including typhoons, storms and heat waves.”
She said projections show climate change will lead to the destruction of more than 167 million homes around the world over the next 20 years. She said a disproportionate number will be in low-income countries.
“Climate change is irreversibly changing the lives of people,” she said.
Ms. Murray stressed the need for the G-7 nations to address greenhouse emissions and climate change, noting recent years have been the warmest on record since 1880.
“I definitely think we have to be much more ambitious in cutting greenhouse gas emissions,” she said.
Ms. Murray added that ShelterBox is reducing its own carbon footprint. The nonprofit’s steps vary from eliminating single-use plastics to purchasing supplies in the areas hit by disasters. The latter step cuts down on the need for shipping.
”We’re also setting up operations in most disaster-affected countries. We have an operational hub in countries like the Philippines, so we can work more efficiently,” she said.
Ms. Murray described ShelterBox’s emergency shelters, which provide housing for people and their families.
“It looks like a recreational tent, but it’s a humanitarian aid tent that people can call home. It’s designed and engineered for these situations,” Ms. Murray said.
And she said ShelterBox repairs damaged homes.
In addition, ShelterBox provides displaced families with a box containing basic items to set up a household.
The nonprofit has given people everything from blankets to solar lights, water filters and carriers, and other tools needed for survival.
And ShelterBox’s outreach has extended from countries as far as India to communities in its backyard. After the 2019 debris flow in Montecito, ShelterBox distributed emergency supplies in the Vons parking lot.
Ms. Murray said ShelterBox USA, which has a budget of roughly $20 million, is seeking to raise an additional $2 million for its 2021 work. To donate, go to shelterboxusa.org.
She added that in addition to climate change, ShelterBox is concerned about the need to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to the most vulnerable nations.
“We often say COVID-19 is not over until it’s over everywhere,” Ms. Murray said. “While we’re seeing a lot of improvement here in the United States with reductions of cases and our population getting vaccinated, we’re seeing vast outbreaks in developing countries. We’re now seeing COVID in refugee camps.
“We have to ensure vaccinations are not only affordable but available to all countries.”