How shelter supports disease prevention

By Victoria Ifould, International Giving Officer, ShelterBox

Disease prevention and treatment is at the very heart of Rotary. As Rotary’s partner in disaster response, ShelterBox is proud to be providing emergency shelter and other essential items to help families stay safe from disease when they have been displaced from their homes.

Shelter plays a vital role in preventing the spread of disease. The coronavirus pandemic saw many people appreciate this for the first time, as governments around the world told people to stay in their homes to protect themselves and others from illness.

But many homes have been damaged or destroyed due to conflict and disaster and no longer provide a safe haven from disease. Today, there are over 113 million people around the world forced from their homes by wars and conflict, tropical storms and earthquakes.  Many have limited access to shelter, healthcare, water, food, and ways to earn a living, leaving them even more vulnerable to diseases like coronavirus, cholera, diphtheria, HIV/AIDS, malaria, dengue fever and trachoma.

ShelterBox supports people who have lost their homes to disaster and conflict with emergency shelter and other essential items that start them on their road to recovery. Depending on where we are responding, we provide locally-appropriate items that assist with disease prevention, such as soap and hygiene supplies, water filters and mosquito nets.

Malaria in Minawao camp, Cameroon

Malaria is a huge problem in Minawao camp in Cameroon, and children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of the disease.

When Boko Haram militias attacked their village, Falmata, her husband and their seven children were forced to flee their home in Nigeria. . When they arrived in Minawo camp, she struggled to protect her children from malaria.

“The problem was that during the rainy season there are too many mosquitoes in the camp, and we had no protection against them. Consequently, my children were always sick.”

Initially, she tried to light fires to keep mosquitoes away like she did in her village, but in a settlement made of highly flammable tents, this was a fire risk.

ShelterBox provided Falmata with mosquito nets so she and her children were protected from malaria and other diseases spread by insects. Falamata hung the nets with pride in the tent, determined to keep her children safe.

 “The difference is clear now that when we use mosquito nets there is less malaria. Indeed, these nets protect us from mosquitoes, and we can sleep better than the past.” 

Shelter helped Abu keep his family safe from COVID-19

“I wish for my children to get a good education and stay safe from disease.”

Abu and his family of nine were forced to flee their home when severe bombing hit their village in Syria. When they arrived at the displacement camp, they had to share a small tent with friends and family from their village.

“Of course, I am worried about the coronavirus because the camp does not have medical services, means of protection, or support to counter the virus. We are afraid of infection due to crowding between people. Sometimes there are two or three families living in one tent. This is the reality we live in.”

ShelterBox provided Abu and his family with a shelter kit, which enabled them to build a secure and private shelter. Equipped with essential items like blankets and kitchen utensils, they no longer had to borrow from other families. The soap and washbasin helped the family better protect themselves from COVID-19. As with all our responses since the beginning of the pandemic, we also provided education and hygiene information in the emergency kit to help stop the spread of disease in vulnerable communities such as this one.

A partnership of impact

Our partnership with Rotary International is grounded in our shared commitment to creating tangible and positive impact. We want to ensure that the shelter support and other essential items we provide are of high quality and appropriate to local conditions.

It is vital we understand the additional risks and challenges faced by people when they lose their homes during disaster or conflict. We know that people are often made more vulnerable to disease in these contexts, and that is why we adapt our responses to support communities to better protect themselves from the threat of illness.

Shelter is so much more than a physical structure; it affects all areas of life. Through supporting communities with shelter, essential items, and training in the emergency phase, we pave the way for long term recovery, underpinning all seven of Rotary’s areas of focus.

Learn more about ShelterBox’s work and the partnership with Rotary by reviewing our Action Toolkit or by contacting rotaryrequest@shelterbox.org.


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