Habitat Team To Assess Housing Needs After Cyclone Hits Bangladesh

More Than 2,600 Dead And Over 920,000 Houses Damaged In Aftermath Of Cyclone Sidr

BANGKOK, 22th November 2007: For many people in southern Bangladesh, the night of 15th November 2007 when Cyclone Sidr unleashed its fury was their worst ordeal. An elderly villager, who lived through two devastating cyclones in the past 40 years, told AFP: “I have never seen such carnage. It was so quick. It took just 30 minutes and everything was gone.” Seventy-year-old Sobhan Dafadar had lost every member of his family except a son who works in the capital Dhaka.

Impact on Lives and Homes

Four days after the disaster, the official death toll has risen to over 2,600. Wire agency reports attributed the main cause of death to trees falling onto flimsy homes made of thatch, bamboo and tin. The number of partly and completely damaged houses has crossed 920,000 with more than four million people affected in the aftermath of the cyclone. Heart-wrenching accounts of losing loved ones, crops and livestock were heard across the 28 badly affected districts.

Twelve out of the 28 affected districts bore the brunt of the disaster. The worst-hit districts include Satkhira in southwestern Bangladesh where one of Habitat for Humanity’s satellite centers is located. Habitat houses, however, are not known to be damaged by the cyclone.

The United Nations has indicated that emergency needs should be concentrated on non-food items, food aid, nutrition, water and sanitation, shelter and disease surveillance. A longer-term response will involve rehabilitation of livelihood, infrastructure, health and education services, and increased shelter capacity.

Bangladesh’s Ministry of Food and Disaster Management has allocated funds to provide essential items such as food, blankets and tents to families in 18 districts. The ministry is also providing 15 million taka (about US224,000) in relief grants and 14.6 million taka (US218,000) in housing construction grants to afflicted families.

The Bangladesh armed forces have dispatched helicopters to air-drop high-energy biscuits in the most inaccessible areas while aircraft delivered mainly food items to other areas. The navy’s ships continue to conduct rescue, evacuation and relief operations in the worst-hit districts.

The United Nations and international non-governmental organizations such as Red Cross, World Vision, CARE, Save the Children (USA), and Catholic relief agency Caritas are responding with emergency appeal for funds or relief aid.

Since 1999, Habitat for Humanity has built and rehabilitated approximately 1,000 homes in Bangladesh. It operates mainly through Habitat Resource Centers and related satellite centers in local communities. Habitat was preparing to begin a disaster response program to assist 150 families who were affected by the July 2007 floods when Cyclone Sidr hit.

Habitat’s Response

Habitat is sending a team with expertise in disaster response, resource development, communications and finance to assess the housing needs in 12 worst-hit districts along the southern coast where nearly three-quarters of the people are reportedly homeless. The aim of the team’s week-long visit is to develop a long-term housing solution in the aftermath of the cyclone.

Mobile Habitat Resource Centers (HRCs) will be set up to coordinate a long-term response. Through the HRCs, Habitat will be able to provide new house construction technology, repair/renovation support, construction management and technical support for survivors and other aid agencies, material and logistics support as needed, as well as manage Habitat volunteer teams that will be building in the disaster area when the situation stabilizes.