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More resilient communities after Cyclone Aila

23 December 2011

Woman selling goods in her grocery shop © InfoMore than 1,000 families, whose lives were devastated when Cyclone Aila struck south-western Bangladesh on 25 May 2009, have now recovered thanks to a Bangladesh Red Crescent programme which completed in December 2011.

The cyclone caused extensive destruction across 11 coastal districts and affected more than 3.9 million people. Although 190 people died, the death toll could have been much higher. But thanks to ongoing work by the government and organisations like the Bangladesh Red Crescent, many communities were better prepared to respond to a cyclone than they had been previously.

However, in the two worst-affected districts, Khulna and Satkhira, more than 300,000 people had their homes and livelihoods utterly destroyed.

This disaster happened to some of the most poverty-stricken communities in Bangladesh. In November 2009, the Bangladesh Red Crescent found that many families, with nothing to fall back on, were living in terrible conditions and barely scraping by.

Helping survivors recover

In partnership with the British Red Cross, it developed a recovery programme to help families in eleven villages located in Khulna. The programme focused on:

  • rebuilding destroyed homes
  • helping people establish new ways to earn a living
  • building or repairing water and sanitation facilities.

Gaurav Prateek, British Red Cross project manager, said: “We’d learned a lot from helping people after Cyclone Sidr in 2007. A big success of that programme was making sure the community was engaged right from the beginning and we used that model again with Cyclone Aila.

“We set up community committees so that the community was involved in developing and implementing its own recovery programme. By working together in this way, people also began to realise their potential to further improve their communities and advocate to the government for better public services.”

By the end of the 18-month programme, the Bangladesh Red Crescent and British Red Cross:

  • built 611 storm-proof homes and three community shelters
  • built or rehabilitated 293 household latrines and three communal water ponds
  • distributed cash grants to 1,000 households to support alternative or existing livelihoods
  • provided training and livelihood support from in partnership with Prodipan, a local specialist training organisation
  • set up community groups trained in finance management, leadership, first aid, hygiene awareness, search and rescue, and disaster response.

Hope for the children

For Mohiful Begum, 32, the excitement of moving into her new home was all the more acute after spending two years in a makeshift shelter, made of leaves, that she couldn’t even stand up in.

Bangladeshi couple sitting on doorstep of their new home© InfoSince their home in Mollabari community was destroyed by Cyclone Aila, it’s been a tough time for Mohiful, her husband and two children. But as part of the Bangladesh Red Crescent programme they’ve received a new home, which will be more resistant to cyclones and has brought them a greater sense of security than they’ve ever known.

It is built on a plinth raised several feet off the ground and is made from a wooden structure with a corrugated iron roof. “We’ll be able to live here for many years,” Mohiful says. “It’s going to make such a difference to us.

“After Aila my husband had bad diarrhoea. A local doctor tried to put a saline drip in his arm but it got infected and now he can’t really use that hand, even for eating, so he can no longer work as a daily labourer.

“But the Red Crescent gave us some money and helped us set up a small grocery shop. We invest some profit back in the business and save some for our children. Recently we bought some clothes and also schoolbooks which we couldn’t afford before.”

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