Dhaka, 21 November 2007: Nearly a week after Cyclone Sidr devastated the Bangladesh coastline, needs are growing but relief supplies are still slow in arriving.
Mohammed Zakaria of ActionAid Bangladesh is currently in Barisal, one of the worst cyclone-hit areas. He said how isolated people felt.
“We are using boats and trawlers to reach out to the remote villages, but there are many people who are stranded on small islands who are finding it difficult to access relief.”
Another ActionAid team member talking from Patuakhali – where the cyclone first touched land – said that they were seeing many children in the open and women with only one sari to cover themselves.
ActionAid is currently stepping up humanitarian assistance from its own resources as well as using a grant that has come from European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO). ECHO has just boosted its aid to Bangladesh as a whole to 6.5 million Euros. Announcing the move, Louis Michel, the European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid spoke of the shocking picture emerging from the coastal regions of Bangladesh.
Farah Kabir, ActionAid’s Country Director in Bangladesh agrees with that view. She said that the country was buckling under the weight of the destruction.
“We are overwhelmed. At least 80% of trees and head of livestock have been destroyed in the affected areas. We must put all efforts to reach out to the poorest, especially women and children, as they often get overlooked in such situations.”
ActionAid teams, working with local organisations, are putting extra emphasis on reaching out to women, children and other vulnerable communities.
The emergency relief packs that ActionAid has distributed so far include food, warm clothes, cooking vessels, utensils and medical supplies.
More than one thousand families have been covered to date by ActionAid. Another six thousand families have been identified and will be reached in the next few days,
Other agencies are also working round the clock but much more is needed. Dr Unnikrishanan PV, ActionAid Asia’s Head of Emergencies said that Cyclone Sidr has reversed the development clock by a whole generation.
“Rebuilding communities is a long term challenge and donors need to be sensitive to this reality.”
ActionAid is a member of the UK’s Disasters Emergency Committee.