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Santa Barbara-based humanitarian nonprofit ShelterBox sending emergency supplies to Pakistan

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Beth Thornton
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ShelterBox, headquartered in Santa Barbara, California, provides tents, tools, and supplies to areas affected by disaster or conflict.

ShelterBox, headquartered in Santa Barbara, provides emergency shelter equipment in the form of tents and tools to people displaced by natural disasters or violent conflicts.

“Right now there are 114 million people displaced in our world, more than any time in recorded history,” said Kerri Murray, president of ShelterBox USA.

Murray joined the non-profit organization in 2015. She said the first Shelter Box was created more than 20 years ago by global volunteers from Rotary International.

“It was based on the premise: what are the things that you need to sustain your life if you lose everything in an instant,” she said.

Murray said, over time, the box has grown to include solar lanterns, water filtration systems, and cooking supplies, in addition to tents.

She said ShelterBox focuses on the most vulnerable regions around the globe. Right now, they are providing aid to Pakistan due to severe flooding from monsoons this season.

“Within Pakistan, 33 million people need humanitarian assistance and, of those, almost 8 million need shelter,” Murray said.

The organization's first step in its response was to get information and assess the need for support. She said they have worked in the region before and have contacts established there.

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ShelterBox
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ShelterBox partners with Islamic Relief in Pakistan to deliver training on how to use equipment and tents so that this can be shared with local communities who receive the aid.

“We sent a response team to Islamabad to begin coordinating. We don’t just send things in, we look really intentionally and thoughtfully at who’s been affected, where are people displaced and what are the needs that these families have,” she said.

Murray said ShelterBox has warehouses and highly trained volunteers ready to deploy from multiple locations around the world, which enables a rapid response.

“What we do as an aid organization is preposition aid items all over the world, and that’s from places like the International Humanitarian City in Dubai to Panama to the Philippines,” she said.

ShelterBox works with community partners in the affected country to distribute aid on the ground. Murray said that’s what they are doing now in Pakistan. And it’s what they have recently done in Ukraine, Syria, and parts of Africa, too.

ShelterBox provides emergency shelter to 250,000 displaced people per year due to disasters, conflicts, or the consequences of climate change.

You can find out more about their work by going to ShelterBoxUSA.org.

Beth Thornton is a freelance reporter for KCBX, and a contributor to Issues & Ideas. She was a 2021 Data Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism.