One month on from Cyclone Roanu: thousands still at risk in Bangladesh

June 21, 2016 OPINION/NEWS

 

By

Sheuli Akter

One month after Cyclone Roanu struck Bangladesh, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is warning that thousands remain in need of urgent help as the monsoon season hits.

Nearly a quarter of a million people in coastal districts have been forced to leave their homes due to damage inflicted by the cyclone, which affected around 1.3 million people and led to widespread flooding, IFRC stated.

They said around 600 Bangladesh Red Crescent youth volunteers have been on the ground helping people since the cyclone made landfall on 21 May, causing floods, landslides and submerging homes.

More than 20 people died after Cyclone Roanu slammed into the country’s coast.

 

 

The IFRC warned that the plight of thousands has gone largely neglected by the international community.

“Despite the fact that we successfully evacuated 500,000 people ahead of the cyclone and minimized the loss of life, this was a very destructive storm. It made landfall during the high tide, which intensified the tidal surge,” said Azmat Ulla, the IFRC’s head of office in Bangladesh.

“The tidal surge contaminated agricultural land with salt water and also washed away boats and fishing nets. Many people have lost their livelihoods and it’s going to take time for them to recover. Food and clean water are in very short supply, while thousands have lost their homes.”

The monsoon is expected to bring more rain across the country in the coming weeks and the damage caused by Cyclone Roanu to protective embankments in coastal areas has meant that local people are even more vulnerable to further flooding.

The IFRC and Bangladesh Red Crescent have been working with communities in Bangladesh for over three decades to build their resilience and reduce the risks they face.

 

 

 

“The people of Bangladesh are no strangers to natural disasters,” added Ulla.

“But that does not mean they are able to pick up the pieces on their own. The increasing frequency of emergencies means that people struggle to recover from one disaster to the next. We need to see more humanitarian investment to build the resilience of such communities. Even without the impact of the cyclone, we have been seeing unusually high tides in coastal areas due to climate change. Normally at this time of year we expect the high tides to reach around three feet. Now they’re increasingly reaching four or five feet, which people are not prepared for.”

In response to Cyclone Roanu, the IFRC said it launched an emergency appeal at the start of June to support the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society in providing relief and recovery assistance to 55,000 people. However, the IFRC appeal has only received 34 per cent of the necessary funding, it added.

To date, IFRC said Red Crescent volunteers have reached 15,000 people with emergency shelter items and cash grants. A further 5,000 people have received clean drinking water, while 2,000 have been treated by Red Crescent mobile health teams.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, and other Movement partners, have also also supporting the Bangladesh Red Crescent in its efforts to reach more cyclone victims.

 

 

 

 

Sheuli Akter

Sheuli Akter, from Bangladesh, is a Special Correspondent and Editor of NsNewsWire, (Bangladesh’s First Press Newswire). Previously she had worked for Bangladesh’ top news agency, United News of Bangladesh (UNB) and top newspaper (now defunct) The Bangladesh Observer. She also gained an honourable mention in the first ever World Media Summit WMS Awards for ‘Exemplary News Professionals in Developing Countries’, receiving the award in Beijing in January 2015.

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