After the storm, Bangladesh cyclone survivors struggle through trying times
By Arifa S. Sharmin
BAGERHAT, Bangladesh, 6 December 2007 – It was close to noon in Khuriakhali Bazaar, a market in the Sharankhola sub-district of Bagerhat, when the UNICEF team arrived after a long walk.
The surrounding village of Southkhali, razed by Cyclone Sidr last month, wore a ghostly look. One or two corrugated metal houses stood alone amidst heaps of destruction. The villagers struggled to make their way along muddy roads and land eroded from uprooted trees.
Cyclone Sidr, which hit the coastal districts of Bangladesh on 15 November, was one of the worst storms in recent memory. It has claimed at least 3,300 lives, leaving hundreds more missing and thousands homeless.
Born during the cyclone
About 100 veiled women with their children had been waiting in a relief queue in Southkhali since morning. Hanufa, 25, said her son was born on the night of 15 November as the cyclone ripped through the village.
It has become extremely difficult for Hanufa to manage even one meal a day for her daughter and herself. “I am trying to breastfeed, but I stopped lactating as I am weak and underfed,” she said.
Hanufa lost her house and all her belongings in the cyclone. She is living in a shelter with her two children. Volunteers helped Hanufa get her share of BP-5 high-energy biscuits, and a UNICEF staff member briefed her on the nutritional value of the biscuits.
Families depend on relief
UNICEF is also distributing 10,000 family kits to those who have lost all their possessions in the cyclone. The kits contain basic household goods such as cooking utensils and towels.
They are a boon to women like Parul, another cyclone survivor, whose family is dependent on relief because her husband died when the storm hit their village.
“These are useful items,” said the mother of two, unpacking the kit. “I have a sari and a towel, a bedspread the children can use.”
Safe spaces for children
UNICEF is attending to the psychological needs of children as well, by providing more than 40 safe havens for those who have been affected – and in some cases orphaned – by the disaster.
Rumana, 10, lost her mother and three siblings during the cyclone. She survived by taking refuge at a shelter.
“Night is very different here,” said her grandmother, Rokeya Begum. “You will hear the sound of people crying. Rumana forgets her mother while she stays in the safe space, but she cries every night when she goes back home.”