Saving Lives in Bangladesh: Emergency Response to Cyclone Sidr
In response to the devastating cyclone that touched down in southern Bangladesh on November 15, international humanitarian organization Action Against Hunger (ACF) has dispatched emergency crews and life-saving materials to the region to supplement teams already on the ground at the time of the disaster. A natural disaster of significant proportions, the cyclone has killed more than 3,000 people to date and left a swath of destruction affecting some 3 million people.
Following a rapid on-the-ground needs assessment, Action Against Hunger’s emergency team was flown in to reinforce teams on the ground with expertise in water and sanitation, food security, and logistics and ensure a comprehensive evaluation. Needs assessments are ongoing to determine where communities have little access to food, no drinkable water or proper sanitation, and where needs for shelter and other emergency items are most urgent (e.g., hygiene kits, cooking kits).
The strength of the cyclone was comparable to a 1991 cyclone that killed 138,000 people and prompted the government to put preventative measures in place. Because of such measures, a significant number of people were evacuated in time before the cyclone touched down, saving countless other lives.
Action Against Hunger’s teams are grappling with a number of current and anticipated problems:
- Beyond the rising death toll, it’s estimated that the devastation will affect more than 3 million people, primarily in the south, primarily fishing and subsistence farming communities.
- Existing infrastructure has been almost completely destroyed and agricultural cycles disrupted as some 760,000 acres of cropland have been ruined.
- Although losing intensity as it moves north, cyclone Sidr downgrading as a storm threatens extensive flooding as rains continue to pound parts of the country.
Current estimates of the human and material losses should be considered subject to change, especially since some of the most affected areas are difficult to reach, cautioned Samir Maleh, Action Against Hunger’s Country Director in Dhaka, Bangladesh. “We are very worried that the human and material damages are much higher than what was first announced, given that access is so difficult and it’s still hard to accurately evaluate the situation,” explained Samir.
Action Against Hunger has worked with communities in Bangladesh since the floods of August 2007.