Save the Children’s Response for Cyclone Aila in Bangladesh
Sahera and her four children collect and prepare shrimp and crabs for lunch using buckets and other relief items provided by Save the Children
The Emergency Cyclone Aila, which struck the southern coast of Bangladesh on May 25, damaged over half a million homes and destroyed sources of livelihood across the southern coastal belt. Entire communities built outside flood embankments and on chars (sandy sea islands) washed away. An estimated 3 million Bangladeshis, at least half of them children, have been affected by the storm. The death toll is approaching 200, with most casualties among fisherman. Over 785 miles of coastal embankments, that protect villages against flooding, have been damaged, leaving communities vulnerable as annual monsoon rains begin in the coming weeks. Save the Children’s Response Save the Children has been on the ground since the day the cyclone struck with pre-positioned relief goods, staff and infrastructure in the area. Already, we have reached an estimated 17,000 families with safe drinking water, emergency food and non-food items, child protection interventions and other relief, focusing on remote, hard-toaccess chars and coastal villages. Water, Sanitation and Health As soon as the cyclone dissipated, Save the Children set up five water purification plants that have already provided 1.5 million liters of water to more than 17,000 families. We have also distributed jerry cans to help families carry water back to their homes, water purification tablets and bleaching powder to sanitize overflowed latrines and waste left behind by the cyclone. Save the Children’s health program provided 8,000 families with oralWater distribution on Char Chapli island, Patuakhali district. Save the Children rehydration solution (ORS) packets is using tankers like these to transport water from our five water purification to treat diarrhea. We are operating a plants to hard-to-reach coastal islands and isolated communities that were water ambulance transporting devastated by the cyclone. government health teams to otherwise inaccessible chars and evacuating critical cases to the mainland hospital. Linking to our long-
term maternal, newborn and child health program in the area, 48 community health volunteers have been recruited and trained to provide families with relevant health information, basic treatment and linkages to health facilities. Food and Non-food Items With pre-positioned stocks in the area, Save the Children was able to provide relief materials to 6,000 families in the weeks after the cyclone. Each family received a family relief kit containing water containers, a plastic sheet and rope for temporary shelter, a candle, a family-sized mosquito net, a blanket and hygiene items. Additionally, we provided food packs containing rice, pulses, oil, sugar and salt to 260 families immediately after the storm. Shahinur uses a plastic sheet to create a temporary shelter from the remains of her home. Hers is one of 6,000 families to receive a kit containing a plastic sheet, rope, mosquito net and other relief goods from Save the Children. Shahinur’s family is also receiving safe drinking water from Save the Children, which uses a boat to deliver tanks of water near her home twice a day. Shahinur says this is essential to protecting the health of her four children as all the local water sources have become contaminated. The small shrimp farm the family had set up behind their home washed away during the cyclone, and Shahinur, a single mother, worries how she will support her children without this source of income.
Child Protection Children in the coastal village and chars affected by Aila saw homes, schools and other places they normally spend time destroyed. A few lost parents or other relatives; many are still displaced from their homes in Satkhira and the adjacent districts. Save the Children has established 30 child-friendly spaces (CFS), which are providing over 3,000 children with supervised places to spend time as well as a protection mechanism to help ensure their safety and well-being in the aftermath of the cyclone. Each CFS is staffed by local volunteers recruited and trained by Save the Children and its partners, and includes recreational materials, games and activities, hot meals and access to water and sanitation facilities. Ongoing Needs While the need for immediate relief continues, the government of Bangladesh, Save the Children and other agencies on the ground have identified serious concerns about the long-term impact of Aila, which devastated already vulnerable communities along the coast. In areas of Satkhira districts, six inches of water still stands in some areas, and boatloads of families have migrated to nearby highlands. In coastal areas of Bhola and Satkhira districts, the cyclone’s impact on
fisheries (particularly shrimp farms) and agriculture was devastating and entire communities have lost their means of production. Infrastructure was badly damaged, particularly outside the flood embankments, and many children lost their schools. Some of the most urgent needs include:
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Cash for work to clear debris left behind by the cyclone, repair infrastructure and provide poor families with much-needed income. As the annual monsoon approaches, flood embankment repair is especially urgent. Ensuring a return to school by helping communities repair classrooms and replace teaching and learning materials, including books and supplies that children lost during the storm. Repair of latrines and water points to prevent disease outbreaks, along with community-level health support until the emergency situation subsides. Livelihoods support to ensure families are able to recover sources of food and income enable them to care for their children.
Save the Children has extensive experience in child-focused emergency preparation, response and recovery in Bangladesh. We mounted one of the largest responses to Cyclone Sidr in November 2007, reaching over 200,000 families and developing effective interventions to meet the specific needs of families in this highly vulnerable region. With ongoing health, education, food security and disaster riskreduction programs in the area, we have a long-term commitment to the children of southern Bangladesh.
Save the Children is the leading independent organization creating lasting change for children in need in Bangladesh and around the world. The response to cyclone Aila is implemented through a coordinated response mechanism by the four Save the Children Alliance members in Bangladesh: Save the Children Australia, Save the Children Sweden-Denmark, Save the Children UK and Save the Children USA- combining resources and expertise to maximize impact for children. The International Save the Children Alliance, a global network of 28 independent Save the Children organizations, works to ensure the well-being and protection of children in more than 120 countries. For more information, visit www.savethechildren.net.
Photos by Asma Sharmin and Shafiqul Alam Kiron/Map