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Tuesday 18 September 2012

ShelterBox in Sahel: Niger and Mali
ShelterBox in Sahel: Niger and Mali Representatives from various aid agencies that ShelterBox has been working with on deployment in Niger at a tent demonstration class led by the Response Team, September, 2012.

Various aid agencies working with ShelterBox in Niger in its response to the recent flooding, food insecurity and conflict have been undertaking tent training led by one of the disaster relief charity's Response Teams.

Representatives from Women and Health Alliance (WAHA) International, International Organization for Migration (IOM), Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED), Red Cross, Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), as well as the Niger Civil Protection and Fire Brigade, attended a tent demonstration class with ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) members John Cordell (US) and Laura Jepson (UK) last weekend.

'It was a great opportunity for some of the other organisations we have been liaising with to see ShelterBox disaster relief tents first hand,' said Laura. 'It was also a fantastic opportunity to train a team of people in preparation for upcoming distributions as ensuring tents are set up correctly is the key to their longevity.'

ShelterBox has been in Niger responding to numerous disasters including flooding that have affected an estimated 400,000 people, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Representatives of various aid agencies who ShelterBox has liaised with in response to the Sahel crisis, September, 2012.

The floods have also destroyed hundreds of hectares of rice fields in the country, which is already facing a food crisis along with others in the Sahel region of West Africa including Mali.

Desert Locust

On top of this, due to the unusual heavy rains and ecological conditions during the summer, a second generation of Desert Locust began breeding at the beginning of September in northeast Mali and northern and central Niger, both countries already hunger-stricken.

The swarming grasshopper-like insects can eat their own weight in fresh food daily and have previously devastated crops in a region where millions of people are already menaced by food shortages, and now threaten to cause further devastation.

Political instability in Mali and ongoing conflict has also not helped this already complex situation that has caused not only families to be forced from their homes but also flee to neighbouring countries.

The latest report from UNHCR says that almost 55,000 Malian refugees are now living across several camps in Niger ran by the UN and coordinated by implementing partners ACTED, Plan International and Islamic Relief.

Malian refugee families

ShelterBoxes were initially sent to Niger in August to bring shelter to more Malian refugee families in the camps as they reached capacity, particularly in Abala.

'As the ShelterBox disaster relief tent has been custom designed and made for us by one of the world’s leading tent manufacturers Vango, there are concerns that need to be considered surrounding the difference between our tents and the standard humanitarian tents already set up,' said Laura. 'To distribute ShelterBox tents alongside the existing ones could cause inequalities and tensions within the camps therefore no ShelterBox tents have yet been set up in the camps until we [humanitarian community] address this issue.'

Furthermore, the security situation in the whole West Africa region affected by the Mali crisis remains difficult and continues to restrict humanitarian aid at different levels according to location.

Monitor the situation

ShelterBox is continuing to monitor the situations remotely with the flood survivors and the Malian families working with ACTED, other aid agencies and the Government in Niger.
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