Helping Africa During Crises

ShelterBox, above and below, delivers emergency shelter to people displaced by conflict in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia.


ShelterBox is making a major push to provide aid to Ethiopia and Somalia as the Horn of Africa is battered by compounding crises.

“What you see is that you’ve got drought conditions affecting an estimated 36 million people (due to) four years of failed rainy seasons, and an anticipated fifth one in the future,” Kerri Murray, president of Santa Barbara-based ShelterBox USA, told the News-Press. “You’ve got climate change, prolonged conflict, a locust infestation (in 2020 and 2021 that decimated crop yields), rising food prices and the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“This is all causing increased migration as the population is moving, and they’re really on the hunt for food and water,” she explained. “So this is causing widespread displacement, and that’s what we handle at ShelterBox: We provide emergency shelter and essential household items to create a private space that a family can call home when they’ve been displaced.”

One conflict that Ms. Murray referenced as an exacerbating factor in the region is the Tigray Conflict that began in November 2020 in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, which is situated on the country’s northern border with Eritrea and is known for its cultivation of sesame and cotton. The fighting — which has over time devolved into guerilla-style tactics and sectarian reprisals against civilians — has pitted the Tigray People’s Liberation Front against the Ethiopian military, sectarian militias loyal to the central government, and troops from neighboring Eritrea.

The Ethiopian government has also received military-grade drones shipped from China, Iran, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, while the United States has revoked trade privileges with the country and threatened sanctions over the litany of human rights abuses that have been confirmed by United Nations investigators.

According to figures provided to the News-Press by ShelterBox, at least 1.5 million people have been displaced from their homes in the Horn of Africa — at least 560,000 in Ethiopia and more than 1 million in Somalia — and that reports suggest that one person is dying from hunger every 48 seconds in the region.

ShelterBox will begin distributing aid to help confront the situation in Ethiopia later this month to 2,400 households, or 12,000 individuals, who have been displaced. Additionally, the organization also has plans in the works to begin providing shelter to 1,000 households in neighboring Somalia.

“We’ve worked in Ethiopia since 2018, and we’ve brought shelter and essential household supplies to over 60,000 people,” said Ms. Murray. “It’s an area we’ve had extensive experience working with, so we’re starting there, and we are working to provide emergency shelter so that includes what’s called our Shelter Kits — those are tarps, ropes and tools to help create a home structure for a family — but we’re also creating a very customized NFI package that includes basic things like a kitchen set, sleeping mats, thermal blankets, a jerry can to hold water, wash basins, mosquito nets and solar lights.”

“In addition to Ethiopia, we are responding to Somalia as well. We are going to be responding there with our Shelter Kits, but it’s just not getting the attention and charitable support that we really need to scale up a lot of these projects,” she continued. “But we absolutely remain committed to help respond despite funding challenges, and despite logistical challenges within the region that are becoming increasingly challenging.”

One factor that the organization believes is styming donations to fund programs to address these crises in the Horn of Africa relates to Russia’s brutal war of aggression in Ukraine and how that crisis has commanded both media and public attention, as well as led to an influx of nonprofit dollars and support to the region.

“As a humanitarian relief organization, ShelterBox is responding to both (the crises in Ukraine and the Horn of Africa),” Ms. Murray explained. “But what we’ve seen for humanitarian agencies is that there’s been an avalanche of support for aiding the war in Ukraine, and so there has been a lot of funding that’s been specifically directed and designated to response efforts within Ukraine and the neighboring countries.”

“However, what you don’t see, while we know there’s a major crisis in the Horn of Africa, it’s not getting the charitable support,” she continued. “And a lot of these initiatives, particularly around shelter, are way underfunded. So it makes it even more important that ShelterBox is responding to these places.”

SOURCE: Santa Barbara News Express