The Ones That Got Away

In The Spotlight: ShelterBox

By Eleanor Knight

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Shelterbox 2014 ©

For many their cries have gone unheard, their livelihoods have been destroyed and their hopes and dreams are just things of the past.

Since the beginning of the civil unrest in 2011, more than 150,000 Syrian lives have been taken and the rest, permanently frightened as to what will happen next.

Nearly three million people, including the young and the elderly, the injured and the sick, have fled to neighbouring countries, desperate to escape the conflict and find shelter for their suffering families.

Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey are just a few of the nations who have opened their borders to the Syrian population, offering basic accommodation and a degree of safety.

“It’s a very difficult situation to have people displaced again and again and again, and obviously reaching people in Syria has a whole host of other challenges,” said Phil Duloy, operations coordinator at ShelterBox—a charity that is currently delivering crucial aid to disaster-stricken families throughout Syria.

Providing relief is nothing new for ShelterBox. Established in 2000, the non-governmental organisation has been at the forefront of delivering critical and emergency humanitarian aid to more than 230 different projects in nearly 90 different countries.

However, Syria is no normal project to the British-based charity, whose emergency work is most commonly aimed towards natural disasters.

Although ShelterBox have been involved in helping war-stricken nations since 2006— when they provided valuable aid to the victims of the Israel-Hezbollah war—Syria poses as an extremely challenging environment due to the high and ever-growing demand of assistance.

“It’s not that conflict is new to us, but something to this scale and sustaining response, it is fairly new,” said Duloy.

With their primary efforts entirely focused on helping the people of Syria, ShelterBox has played a huge part in building the refugee infrastructure within Lebanon, supplying over 1,800 families with crucial accommodation and basic sanitary goods.

A country with a population of just over 4.4 million, Lebanon is struggling to keep up with the highly rising demands of their deprived neighbours. “At this point in time, one-in-every-four people in the country are refugees and that is very obvious. The amount of strain on local infrastructure is crazy,” said Duloy.

From electricity networks to water supplies, medical resources to waste management,the Lebanese system is facing enormous demands, which will only continue to rise.

Latest refugee statistics released by the United Nations Refugee Agency [UNHCR] show more than 1.6 million Syrians are living in Lebanon alone, with the majority finding refuge in specialist camps and accommodation supplied by international organisations such as ShelterBox.

Visiting the country six times in the last two years, Duloy’s personal experience has allowed him to witness, first-hand, the needs of many Syrian refugees within Lebanon. This has allowed ShelterBox to clearly identify what aid is urgently required.

“The Syrian refugee crisis is more challenging, as are any refugee crises just because it is a lot more long term, ongoing and the population you’re assisting is in flux.”

Due to the constantly growing number of refugees, demanding weather conditions and complete uncertainty from one day to the next, ShelterBox has adapted their usual aid strategies to ensure they deliver the best possible on-ground support.

To ensure refugees are as comfortable and as satis ed as possible, the charity has upgraded their standard relief accommodation for UNHCR-speci ed, winterised-family tents, which at a cost, are far more adequate for the type of environment and climate the Middle East poses.

“In Syria and Lebanon you’ve got areas which are 10,000ft which can get heavy snow fall, so we’re using much heavier duty tents, which will last longer because you know people are going to be in them for longer.”

With borders becoming more and more di cult to cross, and countries becoming stricter on who they let in, many people have been stuck stranded in the midst of their fallen country, with no way of eeing to refuge.

Records estimate that more than 9,500 people in Syria are becoming displaced every day—that’s the equivalent to one family every minute [UNHCR]. It is clear that civilians left in the country are facing continual devastation, with no end in sight.

It is these individuals that ShelterBox has, and continues to help. With imperative assistance from their on-ground, partnership organisation Hand In Hand For Syria, the charity has managed to deliver more than one-thousand boxes full of vital supplies, including accommodation resources, activity packs for children and crucial sanitation aid.

As a relatively new charity when the crisis rst broke in 2011, Hand In Hand
for Syria has received expert advice from a handful of thoroughly experienced international organisations, allowing the charity to improve their strategies in order to deliver expert relief to the people of Syria.

According to Duloy, Hand In Hand For Syria is now believed to be assisting more than three of the largest international organisations gain access to the Syrian population.

Supplying partnership charities—like ShelterBox—with photographic and GPS evidence that shows the aid getting to the right people, Hand In Hand For Syria plays a crucial role for many Syrian families, who are entirely reliant on international help.

Due to the lack of rainfall this winter, there is a huge concern over drastic water shortages, which could severely affect Syria, Lebanon and other neighbouring countries.

Due to the lack of rainfall this winter, there is a huge concern over drastic water shortages, which could severely a ect Syria, Lebanon and other neighbouring countries.

“We do focus on water purification, which is going to be crucial when resources are depleted; people will turn to less safe types or sources of water so this summer it will be very important.”

This year ShelterBox plans to deliver much-needed water sanitation aid, including puri cation tablets and more intensive ltration devices, which are able to clean turbid water, as well as containing virus anti-bacterial and anti-virus based properties to help with sanitation.

For more information about the work ShelterBox is running in Lebanon and Syria—and to be part of their ongoing mission—visit www.shelterbox.org.