Cyclone in Bangladesh: UNICEF and partners join emergency relief effort
By Tim Ledwith
NEW YORK, USA, 18 November 2007 – UNICEF and its humanitarian partners in Bangladesh are rushing emergency supplies to hundreds of thousands of families in areas devastated by Cyclone Sidr, the deadliest storm to hit the impoverished nation in a decade.
“UNICEF is on the ground helping the affected population with water, dry food and essential medicines,” said UNICEF Representative in Bangladesh Louis-Georges Arsenault.
“We are also moving on in getting family kits to people with essential items to help them put their life back together,” he added.
Over 3 million affected
The category 4 cyclone, originating from a depression over the Bay of Bengal, struck the southern coast of Bangladesh three days ago and swept across the country. The resulting torrential rains and heavy winds have led to at least 2,000 deaths according to initial assessments, and possibly as many as 10,000 cited in press reports today.
In all, more than 3 million people have been affected by the massive storm, with an estimated 1 million displaced.
While storm conditions and blocked roads made early assessments difficult, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that Cyclone Sidr caused widespread damage to buildings, crops and infrastructure. The cyclone severely disrupted electric power production, telecommunications and water supply, as well.
The same conditions that hampered early reporting on cyclone damage have made humanitarian access problematic, especially in remote areas.
Disaster preparedness measures
Still, the UN country team and non-governmental partner organizations are supporting the government’s relief efforts with hundreds of tonnes of high-energy biscuits and other nutrition assistance, water-purification supplies and shelter materials for those who have lost their homes.
In a move credited with mitigating the impact of the storm, the government activated disaster preparedness measures even before the cyclone made landfall. These measures included the evacuation of approximately 3.2 million people to safer ground along the coastline in 15 districts.
In addition, relief and rescue items – such as dry foods, medicines, tents and cooking supplies – were stockpiled in advance, by both the government and relief agencies.
But the relief effort is just beginning in earnest, and much remains to be done. “I urge the international community to keep Bangladesh high on their priority,” said UNICEF Representative Arsenault. “The rehabilitation following the devastating cyclone is going to need as much support as possible.”