By Alex Youlten, Rotary Partnership Manager at ShelterBox

“Unprecedented” must be one of the most used words in 2020 – mainly connected to the global impact of the coronavirus but also true of the number of extreme weather events around the world. For ShelterBox, Rotary’s partner in disaster response, the end of the calendar year is busier than ever. The past few months have brought unprecedented weather activity:

The Philippines is one of the worst disaster-affected countries in the world. Since 2004, ShelterBox and Rotary members have responded to disasters 31 times in the Philippines – more than in any other country. The Philippines has seen six named storms since October alone, including three typhoons in three successive weeks. According to the Philippines Red Cross, this series of weather events is the worst the country has seen for 40 years.

Arnold Mendoza, Past President of the Rotary Club of Batangas Mid-West, reflects on the most recent typhoons:

“We experienced strong winds and heavy rains, causing a power electricity disruption and cutting water supply for days. The Bicol region has been greatly affected. As well as working with ShelterBox, our club is working to donate goods, such as rice, potable water, canned goods, noodles, blankets, soaps, toothbrushes, toothpaste and the like.

Aside from the typhoons, we are still facing a pandemic. Just like all other countries, the Philippines is also affected. Those who have lost their homes are forced to stay in evacuation centres with other families. Survivors of the typhoon are entirely in need of shelter to stay in, that is why we need the support of ShelterBox – a temporary shelter will be of great help, especially in these trying times.”

Central America
Communities in Central America are still reeling from Hurricanes Eta and Iota. Iota was the 13th and strongest hurricane in a record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season, which has seen 30 named storms so far this year. ShelterBox is working with Habitat for Humanity and Rotary members in Honduras to help families who have lost their homes: three million people were caught in the destructive path of the hurricanes and over 55,000 people are reported to be staying in temporary collective centres. Over 100,000 people have lost their homes and over a million have lost their way of income.

Alex Erazo, President of the Rotary Club of San Pedro Sula in District 4250, is supporting the response in his native Honduras:

“It truly does look like a war zone; the only sounds you can literally hear is of thousands of people crying due to their complete losses (houses, businesses, cars, etc.). The feeling is hard to describe, we are only grateful for our lives; our country is in ruins.

Our club, as well as all other clubs in Honduras, are bringing in containers [with] loads of goods donated either from rotary clubs abroad or [expat]  Honduran friends abroad. Rotarians around Honduras have never felt more united…working for the good sake of our Hondurans. I personally am resilient and believe in the saying that ‘after any storm, calmness comes to all.’ We have only one way to look, which is ahead [to] the reconstruction of a better Honduras.”

ShelterBox is mobilising all emergency shelter stocks currently stored in their warehouses in the Philippines and Panama. Stock will need to be urgently replenished to prepare for future disasters.

Working at full capacity to meet the needs of communities around the world.

Coronavirus, an unprecedented global humanitarian emergency, has created more danger for many of the world’s most vulnerable people. It adds another layer of threat to those who have lost their homes to war, extreme weather events and natural disasters. For those living in places like crowded camps or collective centres, it creates the potential for even more trauma and devastation on top of the impossible circumstances families face after a disaster.

In this pandemic, safe shelter is more important than ever before. Emergency shelter is a critical part of efforts towards prevention, mitigation, and recovery from this crisis. As emergency shelter experts, ShelterBox has had an important part to play in the global response to the pandemic and other simultaneous disasters.

“The partnership between Rotary and ShelterBox provides a place of refuge for vulnerable people to stay as healthy as possible.  When it comes to fighting a pandemic, the most vulnerable need our protection – or everyone is at risk. As emergency shelter experts, ShelterBox has a vitally important part to play in the global response to Covid-19.” John Hewko, General Secretary of Rotary International

ShelterBox has continued to support families throughout the global pandemic while disaster relief has become more difficult. We have overcome travel restrictions, spiraling freight costs and strict protocols for humanitarian cargo including disinfection and quarantine, to support 200,000 people around the world this year. Rotary continues partnering with ShelterBox to meet unprecedented needs. Together we are overcoming obstacles to reach families recovering from these recent storms whilst also supporting families all around the world including Syria, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Burkina Faso and India. Thank you for your support.

Learn more about ShelterBox’s work and the partnership with Rotary by reviewing our Action Toolkit or by contacting [email protected]