Why ShelterBox Pre-positions Aid

by Carrie Baptista August 11, 2023

ShelterBox has a sophisticated model of pre-positioning aid around the world so we can respond quickly and efficiently when disasters strike.  

Below, we answer some common questions about how we arrived at this model, where we stock aid items, and why it makes us a leader in providing customized, cost efficient, and life-saving aid.  

Why does ShelterBox pre-position aid?

Before a disaster happens, we make sure we are ready to help. We store aid in strategic locations around the world so we can get it to the people who need it as quickly as possible. 

Pre-positioning aid makes our supply chain more efficient and cheaper to move the aid to where it is needed. 

Where do you pre-position aid?

We currently pre-position aid in five locations: Europe (Belgium), the Middle East (United Arab Emirates), South America (Panama), and Asia (Philippines and Malaysia).  

From there, we can move it quickly to the places we are most likely to respond. We regularly review these locations as part of our global strategy. 

For example, we store large amounts of aid in the Philippines because we regularly respond there and there are significant benefits to moving aid to our warehouse ahead of when it’s needed. It also allows us to locally source and store items like corrugated galvanized iron (CGI) sheeting. 

CGI (Corrugated Galvanised Iron) & Cash distributions in Lampinig, Philippines.

What aid items do you pre-position?

We store shelters including tents, tarpaulins, rope, and shelter tool kits. We also stock essential items like blankets, sleeping mats, kitchen sets, mosquito nets, solar lights, and water filters and buckets. These are items that we know from experience people need when they are affected by disaster. 

We constantly monitor the amount of aid we have stored in each of these locations. And we replenish our stocks as quickly as possible after they are used.

How do you make sure pre-positioned aid doesn't go unused?

We carefully monitor our stock because some items – like mosquito nets – have a strict shelf life. Items that have been stored for longer are generally used first and rotating stock like this helps prevent items becoming unusable. 

We never know when the next disaster will strike, so we also maintain access to more aid that is not in our storage warehouses. We reserve stock with some of our suppliers, allowing us to access aid items that are ready to go when we need them. 

Do you work with other in the humanitarian sector to pre-position aid?

Yes. Humanitarian organizations often pre-position aid in the same locations, which helps keep costs down. The United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD) has hubs across Europe, Africa, the Middle East, South East Asia, and Latin America. The hubs are run by the World Food Program (WFP) and used by the humanitarian community, including ShelterBox, to pre-position aid in strategic regional locations.  

Where possible, we work with others in the sector like The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and our suppliers to make use of existing global networks and supply chains. This helps us ensure our supply chain is as efficient and robust as possible. 

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