Picking up the pieces after Cyclone Mahasen in Bangladesh

تم النشر: 6 يونيو 2013 15:41 CET

By Maherin Ahmed in Bangladesh

On 16 May, 2013, Cyclone Mahasen struck coastal Bangladesh, killing 17 people and affecting around 1.5 million people across the districts of Patuakhali, Barguna and Bhola.

Mofiza Begum was at home with her two sons when the cyclone struck in the early hours of the morning. Suddenly, one side of her house fell apart and the entire building became unsteady. Fearing the tin roof and walls might collapse in on her family, she ran to a neighbour’s house, which was still standing.

“When I returned after a few hours, I saw that only the wooden frames were there, and only one side of my house was covered. The wind had blown everything away,” she says.

Mofiza spent two sleepless nights with her sons, sleeping on wet, muddy ground only to be woken by the rain pouring down on them. After two days, she received two tarpaulins and jerry cans from the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society.

“Now at least we have shelter,” she says. “I put one sheet on the ground to sleep on so my children don’t have to sleep on the wet ground. I fixed the other tarpaulin on the rooftop to avoid getting drenched when it rains. All my belongings including beddings and clothes were soaked. Being able to close my eyes and lie down on dry ground is a blessing."

As well as providing emergency relief items, the Red Crescent also provided financial support to help Mofiza get back on her feet. On 29 May, she received a 2,000 Taka cash grant (24 Swiss francs) through the Red Crescent office in Patuakhali

As a day labourer, Mofiza’s earnings as a cook are barely enough to provide for her family. “I never thought I would get this help. I have been thinking all the time – who will help me? What will I do now? I did not know how to repair my home,” she says. “I cannot afford to build a new house, but with this money I can make repairs and have a roof to sleep under where my children are safe.”

Kolpona, a mother of two and a widow, comes from the village of Golachipa. She suffered a similar fate to Mofiza’s when the cyclone struck. The nearest cyclone shelter was 10km away and walking there with her children was not an option.

“There was no safe place to seek shelter nearby and I couldn’t afford to leave my house since it is the only asset I have,” she says. During the storm, most of the tin sheets on her house were blown off and the latrine at the back of her house was destroyed.

The cyclone has left Kolpona and her daughter extremely vulnerable. With no latrine, they have to wait for the sun to set before going to the toilet. “How can we do this in the open during the day, there are men everywhere. We have to wait for darkness. My daughter feels a lot of discomfort, but what to do? I need to ensure our security first. The storm came and went; all I need now is a safe latrine for my daughter and me.”

The Bangladesh Red Crescent has been the largest humanitarian responder to the cyclone. To date, 4,000 households have been provided with tarpaulins, jerry cans and a cash grant of 2,000 Taka. The emergency relief operation aims to reach 5,000 families after which further recovery support will be provided, focused mainly on providing shelter materials, technical support and cash to help families rebuild their homes.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has led the deployment of the Shelter Cluster, an inter-agency coordination platform that brings together local and international humanitarian organizations that are responding to emergency shelter needs following Cyclone Mahasen.

The IFRC has an active appeal to assist the Bangladesh Red Crescent deal with the effects of Cyclone Mahasen.