Message from the President
Syria: the massacre of the 21st century
While my messages typically have a hopeful and optimistic tone, I am at a loss for words regarding the violence that is unfolding in Eastern Ghouta, Syria.
A doctor in the region has called these recent attacks as, “ the massacre of the 21st century.” It is estimated that more than 250 people were killed in the rebel-held territory of Ghouta in just 48 hours, with Monday, Feb. 19th being the deadliest day since the chemical attack on the region in 2013. More than 50 children and 106 civilians died on the following day.
Although Eastern Ghouta, a suburb near Damascus, has been a target of the Syrian regime for more than five years, the region was officially declared a safe “de-escalation” zone for civilians in a deal between Russia, Turkey, and Iran last year. All that is now a distant memory.
“Residents of Eastern Ghouta are bracing themselves for what they believe is an imminent ground invasion by Syrian regime forces,” CNN writes. “They said that events in their suburb are playing out similarly to the 2016 offensive in Aleppo, when rebels and [Islamic State] militants were expelled by a government offensive that reduced much of the city to rubble.”
Since 2012, ShelterBox has supported 41,460 households displaced by the conflict in Syria.
Right now, we’re providing aid to families who have left their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs. We’re providing shelter to families with houses left in tatters by bombs and bullets. We’re supplying essential school supplies to both students and teachers.
We’re also deploying seasonal aid like Winterized Kits that include winter mattresses, thermal blankets, solar lights, kitchen sets, tools, and children’s clothing (including coats, thermal tops and bottoms, jeans and jacket set, and insulated onesie for babies).
Today, there are millions more living in Syria and neighboring countries like Iraq who have no shelter, nowhere to go and no hope for the future.
With your support we can keep working towards a future where these families have shelter, but most importantly a safe place to call home.
Kerri Murray, President of ShelterBox USA
ShelterBox continues to respond
Since the 2011 protests in Syria escalated into civil war, the conflict has led to the displacement of 13 million Syrians.
The war has spilled over into Iraq and destabilized neighboring countries, leading to the displacement of a further 3.2 million people in Iraq. The United Nations Refugee Agency has described it as the greatest humanitarian crisis since the end of the Second World War. ShelterBox has been supporting displaced people either by means of deployed Response Teams where possible, or remote partnered approach as necessary, since 2012.
56% of the Syrian population have been forced to leave their homes
A mother and her children carry a ShelterKit in war-torn Aleppo
Responding to Crises Within a Crisis
In a protracted crisis such as that in Syria and Iraq there is a well-established humanitarian architecture in place to support people affected by the disaster. As in responses to natural disaster, ShelterBox has continued to focus on providing emergency shelter. The organization has positioned itself by offering surge capacity in times of massive displacement, such as the Aleppo Emergency in February 2016, when 75,000 people were displaced in a matter of weeks.
Syria is one of the most challenging operating environments in the world. It is too dangerous for a volunteer-led organization such as ShelterBox to safely operate and provide aid. Therefore ShelterBox has established partnerships with agencies working in Iraq and within Syria to allow access to these areas. Partners such as Hand in Hand for Syria and ReliefAid, who have networks in the affected areas and are able to access the people who are in need of assistance.
24% of all households helped by ShelterBox since the start of 2015 have been those displaced by the conflict in Syria and Iraq
A Flexible Approach
ShelterBox has dispatched tents, ShelterKits and non-food items (NFIs) to ease a variety of needs in Syria, Iraq and Greece. The equipment that is procured is based on the needs of Syrians and Iraqis, based on the contextual and seasonal needs of displaced people. For example, the ShelterKits distributed in Aleppo city in the summer of 2016 were tailored to protect against summer insects with mosquito nets, and included enough water purification equipment to provide families with drinking water for 5-months.
People are constantly displaced by the shifting front lines, as the different armed factions seek to take and hold territory. Tents are used to take people out of overcrowded communal shelters, or to provide shelter to people who have no protection from the elements except for trees.
Funding for shelter support to the Syrian conflict is chronically low. In 2016 the Shelter & NFI Sector within the Syrian Humanitarian Response Plan was 18% funded.
According to the U.N. in 2016, a staggering $4.5 billion was needed to meet the urgent needs of vulnerable Syrian families but only $2.9 billion was received.
A Syrian class receives ShelterBox school packs
In the News
Responding since 2012:
2017 – Charity Navigator supporting Syrian refugees list
2016 – Goop includes ShelterBox in How to Help Syria list
2016 – ShelterBox Report: Aid worker killed in Aleppo
2016 – ShelterBox — Nerdhiker’s Guide to the Charity
2015 – Public Radio International (PRI) #SyrianRefugees list
2015 – Rueters list of organizations responding to Syrian Crisis
2015 – Rotary and ShelterBox support Syrian refugees
2013 – CNN feature on ShelterBox’s work in Syria
2013 – CNN iReport: ShelterBox aid arrives in Syria
2012 – Forbes 12 Days of Charitable Giving: ShelterBox
2012 – The Telegraph takes a look at ShelterBox’s response
ShelterBox in Iraq • See more images
ShelterBox Tent in Lebanon • See more images
ShelterBox Tent in Jordan • See more images
ShelterBox Tents in Turkey
ShelterBox response in Greece • See more images
How it started
What started out as a peaceful protest against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011, degenerated into a regional inter-ethnic civil war. The violence, sectarian tensions and economic hardship has forced Syrian families from their homes and land.
Global warming has also been attributed as part of the problem. A severe drought from 2007-2010 caused roughly 1.5 million people to migrate from the countryside into cities, which exacerbated poverty and social unrest.
Years later, this remains the worst humanitarian crisis the world has faced since the end of the cold war. This disaster has displaced more people than the Philippines’ Typhoon Haiyan, Haiti earthquake, Japanese earthquake and Hurricane Katrina combined.
The Zeidan Family
“Our only hope for the future is to be able to return to our home country and live our life as it was before.”
In 2013, ShelterBox was the first international aid organization to distribute relief tents to Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
With so vast a story, the greatest insight often lies in individual tales and quiet voices. Meet 25-year-old Ahed Hussein Zeidan. Her eyes are full of sadness as she tells her story, sitting elegantly in her ShelterBox tent in Akaar, northern Lebanon.
“We left our village in Syria one day in the early hours of the morning. We had felt unsafe in our home for a while with all the shelling that was happening in our area. It was a frightening journey here as we had to pass through several checkpoints, but we made it across the border late at night the same day, so it was a very long journey.”
Ahed is cradling her four-month-old baby, Omar. On either side of her are two of her three sisters who also live with her, one of whom is holding her own baby boy. Her brother in law is out working to raise enough money to rent the piece of land on which they have settled.
“When we arrived here, we were living in an unfinished building, like lots of other families. However, as winter approached, it was freezing as there were no walls. It was not closed or sheltered. We lived here until we received a ShelterBox. We then found this land and set up the tent. We are so grateful for it.
This tent is closed so it is much better, protecting us from all the bad weather, the wind and rain. It’s much warmer and much better than the unfinished house. We are more comfortable and we feel safer and our children are safer.