We have four ShelterBox Response Teams planning and overseeing relief activities in the Caribbean.
Our team based in Panama has moved to then island of Barbados to work in the coordination hub there (which includes organizations like DHL Disaster Response Team, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency). We will establish a ShelterBox hub on Barbados to work on the complex logistics of getting aid to the families who desperately need it.
A second team is working with Red Cross National Societies to start distributing the 500 ShelterKits from Panama. Location will be confirmed following completion of a needs assessment.
A third team is going to the Dominican Republic, and we’re hoping to provide another 500 ShelterKits from the Panama supply hub, along with training on how to use them, through partnering with Habitat for Humanity. Habitat oversees recovery efforts beyond this emergency phase, so that should ensure maximum benefit for the families we are helping.
A fourth left the U.S. this week to go to the British Virgin Islands to conduct needs assessments. Aid, including tents and ShelterBoxes, was packed in the United Kingdom, where ShelterBox originated, and are being shipped this week with the assistance of the airline Virgin Atlantic who stepped in to help with logistics.
Why does it take so long to get aid in?
As a charity, our resources are limited and we must go where the need is greatest. We have to take the time to get this right because giving the wrong aid to families could harm their recovery. Once they have received aid from one humanitarian agency they are unlikely to be a priority to receive any more, so it is essential to get it right.
There are a huge number of factors that the team has to deal with. All infrastructure has broken down, which means government processes have broken down, too; ports and airports are damaged, so we need to find other routes, and we need to be able to work with people on the ground to distribute once we are there. Experience has taught us that making informed decisions means we get the right aid to families sooner.