Three months after Cyclone Sidr – 1.3m Bengalis face monsoon rains in temporary shelter

Published: 15 February 2008

More than 1.3m people affected by the Bangladesh cyclone are still living in temporary shelter as the monsoon rains approach, international agency Oxfam warned today.

Three months to the day after Cyclone Sidr killed 4,000 people and destroyed millions of homes, Oxfam is concerned that despite an energetic initial response the current recovery efforts are not meeting the massive needs of cyclone-affected communities.

Hundreds of thousands of families are living under plastic sheeting, tarpaulins and other basic shelters which leave them at the mercy of the elements.

The cyclone also destroyed crops, livestock and fishing gear. Many communities lost both their incomes and their assets, and a quick and effective recovery depends on restoring people’s livelihoods quickly.

Oxfam has spent  approximately US$7 million supporting 193,000 people in five of the worst-affected coastal districts. It is providing 'emergency shelter kits' of iron sheeting and building accessories to nearly 10,000 households as a temporary measure until more permanent shelter is provided, as well as working on livelihoods projects.

Heather Blackwell, Head of Oxfam in Bangladesh, said: “Bangladesh's early warning and preparation saved up to 100,000 lives. The number of people killed, although high, was not as large as in previous similar disasters. This is a tribute to the disaster preparation work done before the cyclone.

“But now more than 1.3m people are facing terrible monsoon weather with completely inadequate shelter. Having suffered from the elements once, they could soon suffer again. It is vital that the Bangladeshi government and the international community – including the UN – urgently devise a better plan for giving these people proper shelter.

“At the same time they must help those people affected by the cyclone to start working again. People need more than just food aid – they need to start farming and fishing again if they are to recover from the havoc wreaked by Cyclone Sidr.”

Oxfam would like to see the Government of Bangladesh, the international community and civil society work together more closely to reduce the vulnerability of those living in disaster-prone areas and tackle the problem of climate change that threatens more and bigger disasters.

Rich countries must implement the commitments made at the 2007 UN Conference on Climate Change and start delivering on pledges to set up a fund that will help developing countries adapt to the burgeoning cost of climate change.

Notes to Editors

1. Oxfam has compiled a briefing note “After the cyclone: lessons from a disaster” to highlight its concerns three months after Cyclone Sidr.

2. In addition to its field work, the agency carried out focus groups and discussions with cyclone survivors, aid workers, government officials and others involved in the relief effort.

3. Estimates by the government and aid agencies show that 264,958 families (or 1,324,790 people) remain in need of transitional shelters and do not have any capacity to cope on their own.

Contact Information

For more information, please contact:
Sean Kenny +44 1865 472 359 or +44 7881 655 715, skenny@oxfam.org.uk

In Bangladesh:

Heather Blackwell, Country Program Manager (English) +880 0171 3011114

Farid Hasan Ahmed - Humanitarian & Disaster Risk Reduction Program Manager (English and Bangla) +88 01711525207