By Raqibul Alam, IFRC
At least 140 people, most of them women and young children, have been reported dead after landslides triggered by days of severe rain swept down Chittagong Hills, just two weeks after Cyclone Mora battered the same region. An estimated 3.3 million people were affected by the cyclone, which damaged more than 50,000 houses in Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar districts alone.
The landslides and torrential rains are worsening the situation for the affected communities, who are struggling to rebuild their lives and livelihoods in the aftermath of Cyclone Mora. The Bangladesh Red Crescent Society has mobilised 60 Red Crescent youth volunteers and 7 officers for search and rescue, first aid and evacuation activities in response to the landslides.
Just days before Cyclone Mora struck Bangladesh’s South West coastline, the Red Crescent initiated its cyclone contingency plan and activated its emergency control room to respond to the imminent disaster. Around 55,000 Cyclone Preparedness Programme volunteers and 800 Red Crescent Youth volunteers were out in full force in 15 of the country’s coastal districts to disseminate early warnings in communities and help evacuate those living in the path of the storm.
A day before the Cyclone struck Bangladesh, the national society also distributed a cash grant of 5000 takas (60 euros) to 2,300 households in Noakhali district under a Forecast Based Financing project supported by the German Red Cross.
The Red Crescent distributed dry food supplies to around 25,000 people after the cyclone made landfall on 30 May 2017. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) earlier released its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to provide food and other emergency relief items to people taking refuge in temporary shelters.
Siddik Ahmed, who leads a household of 7 family members, had no idea where he would be able to get food and basic supplies for his family. When the Red Crescent arrived with rice, candles and matchboxes, Ahmed felt a huge weight lift off his shoulders. “We don’t even have running water now,” he explains. “The storm has destroyed everything, even our water supply.”
Around 3,000 households affected by the cyclone received similar food rations and household items in Cox’s Bazar, while 2,000 households received the same assistance in Chittagong and Noakhlai districts.
Nur Ayesa, who lives in Cox’s Bazar with her husband and two children, lost her shelter and livestock due to the cyclone. “My husband earns a living through construction and labour work, but after the cyclone, there is no more work for him,” Ayesa says. “He has lost his only source of income.”
Most of the communities living in Cox’s Bazar used to plant betel leaves and betel nut trees on the land surrounding their homes as a source of income. A good number of women also used to work in betel leaf farms before Cyclone Mora damaged the agriculture, leaving their livelihood compromised.
The IFRC will be launching an appeal of 1.3 million Swiss francs (1.3 million US Dollars or 1.2 million Euros) in the coming days to support efforts by the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society to address the most urgent humanitarian needs of people affected by the cyclone and landslides. Through this appeal, Red Crescent volunteers and staff will be able to assist 50,000 people with emergency relief, with a focus on water, sanitation and hygiene promotion activities, shelter, food security, the restoration of livelihoods and reducing the risks of disasters for communities living in the affected areas.