On 25 May 2009, south-western Bangladesh was struck by Cyclone Aila causing extensive destruction across 11 coastal districts, killing 190 people and affecting more than 3.9 million.
The two worst-affected districts were Shatkira and Khulna where more than 300,000 people have been affected with their homes and livelihoods destroyed.
The cyclone also caused a tidal surge destroying parts of the embankment in Khulna and Shatkira and flooding large areas.
After the disaster, the regional economy collapsed and the affected population needed extensive support. Although the government and aid agencies provided emergency assistance and recovery programmes, the people still struggled to rebuild their lives and protect themselves against the threat of further cyclones.
Some people found ways of making an income, but many months after the disaster some people remained dependent on relief and cash-for-work initiatives, which help in the short term but do not provide sustainable solutions to people’s problems.
Water and sanitation
The cyclone also had a catastrophic impact on water and sanitation facilities, presenting a serious health risk to the displaced population. Many people had to travel at aroud 6 kilometres to obtain drinking water. The use of saline water for cooking, household activities and bathing also affected people’s health and hygiene, with a noticeable increase in incidence of diarrhoea and skin diseases.
Sanitation facilities available were not sufficient in terms of numbers, quality and privacy, particularly for women and girls. Pit latrines were provided in some settlements, but the numbers did not meet the needs with an average of 15 families sharing a single latrine.
While ongoing hygiene promotion in past operations in Bangladesh has resulted in higher awareness about key hygiene issues, the limited access to resources made it hard to adhere to even the lowest hygiene standards. As a result, families often did not have any other choice than to drink unsafe water or to spend their limited financial resources to purchase bottled water or to hire transport to collect water from other locations.
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Last updated December 2011