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Bangladesh: new homes and livelihoods for cyclone survivors

9 December 2010

Since Cyclone Aila devastated 11 coastal districts in Bangladesh in May 2009, the regional economy has collapsed and the affected population remains in need of extensive support. 

Although the government and aid agencies have provided emergency assistance and recovery programmes, people are still struggling to rebuild their lives and protect themselves against the threat of further cyclones.

In partnership with the Bangladesh Red Crescent, the British Red Cross is starting a new programme in Khulna, one of the worst-affected districts. It will help more than 950 households recover by: rebuilding destroyed homes, improving water and sanitation facilities and helping people regain livelihoods.

Increasing vulnerability

Thatched home surrounded by water© InfoWhile the return period of earlier destructive cyclones in Bangladesh lay between thirty to fifty years, recent ones are recurring nearly every eight years, significantly increasing the frequency of devastating cyclones. 

In addition, several studies indicate a rising vulnerability of people living on the coast due to the negative impact of climate change. The rise in sea levels and sea temperature are two of the key factors behind this. 

In Khulna, communities are still surviving in self-made temporary shelters situated on unsecure narrow stretches of land along the coastal embankments. The need to redevelop these settlements is an urgent matter to ensure communities can recover their lives and livelihoods before another major disaster strikes.

Building homes

The Red Cross is working closely with affected communities in which it is helping build more than 600 houses destroyed during Cyclone Aila.

Justin Dell, British Red Cross recovery support officer, said: “The project is currently in the design phase and, following consultation with key community members, a model house will be built to give people a clear idea about what their new home will look like.

“The communities will have the opportunity to input into the specifications, materials and design, before procurement and construction begins. They will also play a key role in the construction phase, actively contributing to building and repair of houses.”

Rebuilding livelihoods

Before Cyclone Aila hit Bangladesh, the population was already poor with 40 per cent of the population living below the poverty line and 41 per cent of children under five suffering from malnutrition.  The cyclone compounded these problems in Khulna district, devastating families’ ability to earn an income.

The Red Cross programme will provide cash grants and small-business training to more than 950 families. It will help them establish sustainable livelihoods in activities such as fish and prawn farming, poultry farming, and vegetable and nursery gardening.

Find out how wer'e helping women prepare for cyclones in Bangladesh

1  Hossain et al, Impact of Tropical Cyclones on Rural Infrastructures in Bangladesh, (April, 2008)
2  Ministry of Environment and Forest Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA), (November, 2005)
World Bank

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