ShelterBox USA continues to provide shelter to the displaced to survive the winter
As many Americans spend Christmas Day cozy in their homes, ShelterBox USA will continue to respond to conflict and disaster situations all over the world.
In the middle of winter, ShelterBox’s primary focus is its response to the Syrian refugee crisis. Many individuals and families have become displaced, forcing them to endure the extremely cold Syrian winter.
However, ShelterBox is hoping to provide “winterized shelter kits” to as many displaced people as possible. These kits contain basic supplies to survive, including blankets, carpets, mattresses, boots, coats, thermal baby onesies, sanitary items and more.
Kerri Murray, the president of ShelterBox USA Santa Barbara, told the News-Press that some of the struggles of the Syrian refugees were drowned out by the news of the pandemic at this time last year.
“Children were literally freezing to death because of the cold when COVID was just breaking,” she said. “The pandemic soon took over.”
ShelterBox is in its 10th year of providing aid to the refugees, and has provided more than 200,000 people with life-saving shelter and basic supplies they need to survive.
“There’s no shortage of need in Syria,” Ms. Murray said. “We have remained committed to this since the conflict started … It’s a critical piece of our work right now.”
Along with providing shelter and survival in Syria, ShelterBox is currently responding to natural disasters such as Super Typhoon Goni in the Philippines, which is considered the strongest landfalling tropical cyclone in world recorded history, and Hurricane Iota in Nicaragua, which is the latest known Atlantic hurricane ever to attain Category 5 intensity.
Volunteers and staff are also working to provide aid to Minawao, a refugee camp in Cameroon.
“At this camp, when you are processed in as a refugee, you’re typically held and processed in a transit or a collective center,” Ms. Murray said. “You could spend a period of weeks to months in these collective centers.
“They’re overcrowded with no ability to socially distance.”
COVID-19 does, in fact, exist in these countries, Ms. Murray said, but it’s largely underreported.
“If someone gets very sick and they’re displaced and living in a camp, their chances of getting a hospital bed are basically slim to none,” she said. “They can’t get the medical care they need, so we’re trying to limit the transmission and the spread through individual shelters and educational materials on distancing.
“We are the only provider of tents to new arrivals (at the camps). We’re really trying to scale our aid there so we can serve more families and quickly move them into individual tents and shelters.”
Ms. Murray added that the pandemic has highlighted the importance of shelter unlike anything before.
“I always say, whether it’s a disaster, whether it’s a pandemic, whether it’s a conflict situation, shelter is one of the most profound differences we can make in someone’s life,” she said. “It’s the absolute first step in recovery for these families.”
There are a host of ways to get involved with ShelterBox, from volunteering to becoming an ambassador to contributing financially.
Visit shelterboxusa.org for more information on ways to help.