The ongoing presidential election has grabbed most media headlines and left relatively little coverage of category 4 Super Typhoon Goni’s landfall in the Philippines.
But Santa Barbara-based nonprofit ShelterBox has been heavily involved with the Southeast Asian island nation to provide those displaced by the storm with shelter and essential household items.
ShelterBox USA president Kerri Murray told the News-Press that the Philippines is in great need of humanitarian need, as Super Typhoon Goni is the strongest storm to make landfall this year and is following four tropical storms that have already hit the Philippines in the past month. These are Typhoon Molave, Typhoon Suadel, Tropical Depression Ofel and Tropical Storm Nangka.
Super Typhoon Goni has impacted around 1.5 million people in the country’s Bicol region.
During the disaster, 382,000 people have been displaced to evacuation centers, and 10,000 homes have been destroyed.
“People have lost everything, and the humanitarian needs are high,” Ms. Murray said.
She added that individuals and families displaced by the storm face a “double threat” of having nowhere to live and catching COVID-19, since the Philippines has faced the second worst COVID-19 outbreak in Southeast Asia.
The latter can be exacerbated by a high concentration of people crammed in evacuation facilities speeding up COVID-19 transmission.
ShelterBox is tackling both of these problems by meeting the displaced storm victims’ health, hygiene and shelter needs by providing shelter kits and basic supplies like blankets, cooking equipment, lights and water purifiers. The shelter kits include a survival tent with enough room for an extended family, according to a press release.
Since the organization began in the year 2000, ShelterBox has delivered emergency shelter to 1.6 million people in more than 100 countries.
Having responded to disasters in the Philippines 27 times, more frequently than any other country in its organization’s history, ShelterBox set up permanent operations in the country in 2017, with a warehouse in its Cebu region stocked with emergency shelter materials and non-food items.
“This is par for the course in this region, and that’s why we set up an operation in the country,” Ms. Murray said.
This means that ShelterBox is in a unique position to help the Philippines because the country’s government has imposed a ban on the importation of aid supplies in order to curtail the spread of COVID-19.
According to Ms. Murray, the initial inventory at the nonprofit’s warehouse indicates that it will deploy 2,000 sets of aid, one set per family.
To determine how much more aid to deploy thereafter, the nonprofit must conduct what Ms. Murray called “rapid needs assessments.”
However, assessing what the typhoon victims need can be difficult considering that destruction from the storm has left some places inaccessible and some without electricity, disrupting their ability to relay information.
Following an ethos of pre-positioning, ShelterBox has set up aid warehouses in Dubai, its operational headquarters in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Panama. The latter is going to be crucial for when ShelterBox gives aid to the Central American countries of Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador in the wake of the category 4 Hurricane Eta, which just recently made landfall in Nicaragua.
Formerly the vice president of marketing at Direct Relief, Ms. Murray joined ShelterBox in 2015 once she saw the lifesaving work it was doing.
She described ShelterBox as driven by one basic premise, “What do you need to sustain your life if you lose everything in an instance?”
“We do something so simple, but it’s so essential to every human being,” she said.