By John Cleverly, ShelterBox Rotary Marketing Officer
In times of disaster, communities need assistance. At the start of every response, ShelterBox carefully assesses the requirements of those who seek support – working with communities to find out what items are most essential. ShelterBox procures weather and culturally appropriate items locally and internationally, which are then distributed in communities with training on how to use them. After the distributions, ShelterBox follows up with community members, using surveys and focus group discussions to collect data and hear how they feel about what has been provided and how support can be improved.
In addition, ShelterBox regularly reviews our aid items to ensure that high standards are met. Our procurement process is rigorous because providing the highest quality items is important to us. Competitive bidding processes are conducted, in which we invite proposals from prospective suppliers, and an internal committee then assesses those bids by reviewing technical specifications, usability, product supply and availability, and environmental sustainability credentials according to our requirements.
When ShelterBox reviewed our water filters in 2020, the competitive procurement process yielded Safe Water Trust Ltd., a manufacturing company started by engineer and Rotarian John Griffith, as our new water filter supplier. We were impressed by the amount of water that the Grifaid Family Filter can process given the relative simplicity of the device. In one hour, it can filter up to 120 litres of water, and the main filter has a lifetime of 200,000 litres – enough for a recovering family of four to access potable water for at least five years.
We piloted the filter with the community in the far north of Cameroon, where ShelterBox has been implementing one of its protracted emergency response programs since 2015. Since then, ShelterBox has supported more than 100,000 people in and around a vast refugee site known as Minawao camp, which formed when communities fled their homes during armed violence in Nigeria. Families are forced to move more than once, sometimes spending days without food, safe drinking water, or a space to sleep before arriving at the refugee site. Extreme poverty, underdevelopment, and climate change continue to make an already uncertain situation worse for people in Cameroon, as well as in Nigeria, Niger, and Chad. In this long-term crisis, there are constant new arrivals who need emergency shelter and other essential items like water filters.
The people who received the filter had immediate access to safe drinking water, protecting them from water-borne diseases. Because fuel was not needed to boil water, it also reduced the pressure on the local fuel-wood supply. People who used the filter told us that the water tasted better than before and that the Grifaid filters worked more quickly than other filters that they had tried. Importantly, they also told us that the filters were easier to clean and maintain, which is crucial to the ongoing use of such a useful aid item.
Learning from our response in Cameroon, we have since used the Grifaid Family Filters in other responses, including following the monsoon flooding in Pakistan and Cyclone Freddy in Malawi.
At ShelterBox, our approach to delivering emergency shelter and essential household items according to humanitarian best practices has been improved through decades of experience, during which we have been and are privileged to work with the Rotary family. Our next project is already starting in Cameroon where we hope to support more than 50,000 newly displaced people with emergency shelter and essential household items, alongside our new partner Public Concern. Our ongoing strategy is to continue to work together with the Rotary family — from local implementation and distributions to supplying high-quality items, like the Grifaid filters — to ensure no one is without shelter after disaster.
To learn more about Rotary International project partner ShelterBox’s technical expertise, extended emergency response programs, or ways to collaborate with ShelterBox on serving people in need of emergency shelter and essential aid, email firstname.lastname@example.org.