ShelterBox urges people to remember the millions of displaced families who are even more vulnerable to coronavirus.


International disaster relief charity ShelterBox urges people to remember the millions of displaced families who are even more vulnerable to coronavirus. The charity has launched an urgent Coronavirus Appeal to provide emergency shelter to vulnerable families in places like Syria to help communities there protect themselves from the disease.

To curb the spread of COVID-19, governments around the world have imposed countless restrictions to keep people washing their hands, limiting social contact, and remaining in their homes. But what if you don’t have a home, access to clean water, or a local support network to begin with? That’s the situation millions of families are finding themselves in, with no way to protect themselves from the virus.

ShelterBox continues to work with partners in places like Syria, Cameroon and Ethiopia to deliver emergency shelter and essentials items like water filters, blankets and cooking sets. Their teams are finding new ways to tackle the challenges and adapt to changing circumstances.

Sanj Srikanthan, Chief Executive of ShelterBox, explains the vital role emergency shelter plays in curbing the virus:

‘When you lose your home after a disaster or in a conflict, your ability to stay safe and healthy is already compromised. Now families in places like Syria – who are already struggling to get the basics – face a crisis within a crisis when coronavirus hits. It will spread like wildfire from family to family, camp to camp.

‘Coronavirus is shining a spotlight on the fundamental importance of home to our health and wellbeing, and our ability to deal with the serious problems that life can bring. Right now, we’re all looking at ways to help our close family and community, which is completely understandable. It’s a worrying time for everyone.

‘But ShelterBox is urging you to support families further afield too, if you can. Imagine being seriously ill with no roof over your head. There’s little hope of “social distancing” when there are no blankets to keep your children warm. You can’t wash your hands frequently when there is no clean water. You can’t make your children meals when there is nowhere to cook and nothing to cook it in.

‘Our tents and shelter kits can help people to keep distance from each other. Emergency shelter is vital for moving people from overcrowded camps and collective centers to a more private space.’

ShelterBox partners ReliefAid, who are delivering aid in Idlib, have spoken of their concerns and the difference this aid will make. A humanitarian worker there said:

‘I am very worried about the virus. If many countries cannot deal with the virus, here in Northern Syria the situation will be disastrous.

‘Families with shelter are more able to stay well because they are warm dry and able to sleep. Using family kits, like water containers and cooking pots, they don’t need to share materials, reducing the risk of infection.’


Amid continuing violence in north western Syria and the imminent threat of coronavirus, ReliefAid humanitarian worker Bana wanted to share a photo of the flowers on her balcony in Idlib, Syria. She said:

‘I bought these flowers to forget about the sadness and this difficult reality. I feel optimistic whenever I water or look at them.’

To find out more or support ShelterBox’s urgent Coronavirus Appeal, click here.

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