Friday, August 9, 2013

Bangladesh: Reconstructing now for better prevention in the future

Terre des hommes: Two months after the passing of Tropical Storm Mahasen, which affected more than 500,000 people, and the implementation of an initial emergency phase, Terre des hommes is assisting nearly 20,000 victims to recover from the consequences they suffered and to become more resistant to the future effects of cyclones and flooding.

On 16 May 2013, a deluge of water battered the coasts of Bangladesh, causing the worst to be feared for those affected. Although initially all of the reports happily referred to a relatively low number of casualties, the gravity of the situation soon become clear. Ninety percent of those affected had lost their means of livelihood, consisting mainly of subsistence agricultural and fishing. More than 80% of them no longer had access to clean drinking water or toilet facilities, generating fears that health problems would increase tremendously.

Terre des hommes, present in the region since 2007, immediately launched an emergency aid programme, which focused on the distribution of emergency materials (drinking water, food and basic goods) and medical assistance for the most vulnerable (pregnant and nursing women and children under five). Today, the teams on the ground are working to provide longer-term rehabilitation and to reduce the risks related to new catastrophes.

In concrete terms, 2,400 families who are among the most vulnerable are receiving food aid, which will enable them to overcome the loss of this year’s harvest. Also, 169 community reservoirs are being repaired, and five anti-cyclone emergency shelters are now equipped with a system to collect and distribute water. A total of nearly 20,000 people will be able to recover more quickly from the consequences of Tropical Storm Mahasen and will be better prepared to face future disasters.

This type of risk prevention is fundamental in a country like Bangladesh, which suffers regularly from natural disasters. Terre des hommes also carries out consistent efforts aimed at reducing the effects of disasters on the local population. A little help goes a long way. For example, within the framework of a pilot project, Keyhole gardens were set up to protect the vegetables being grown from flooding. Ninety percent of them survived the passing of Mahasen, thus proving the effectiveness of an innovative system, which is easy to build and inexpensive to implement. A glimmer of hope for the future.

Tropical Storm Mahasen making landfall in Bangladesh on May 16, 2013. Image by NASA

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