Aid agencies warn of impending crisis in Bangladesh

By Agencies
April 14, 2008

Aid agencies are warning of a housing crisis as Bangladesh approaches the monsoon season.

Five months after Cyclone Sidr killed 4,000 people and destroyed nearly 1.5 million homes, millions of Bangladeshis remain in dire need of housing assistance say the agencies.

With only weeks to go before the start of the annual monsoon rains, hundreds of thousands of families are still living under plastic sheeting, tarpaulins and other basic shelters which leave them at the mercy of the elements.

Aid agencies taking part in the country's shelter coordination group have warned that the scale of the destruction is simply too massive for them to provide meaningful assistance to all of those in need. The cyclone and the subsequent storm surge have damaged or destroyed nearly four times as many homes as were affected by the 2005 Pakistan earthquake.

"The combined efforts of all aid agencies as well as bilateral government pledges for core housing are likely to reach around 60,000 affected families. But this is only a fraction of those who need help," said Graham Saunders, head of shelter for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, speaking on behalf of the global Emergency Shelter Cluster and the operational shelter agencies in Bangladesh.

"More than 260,000 extremely vulnerable families are currently not getting any assistance to rebuild their homes. Assessments indicate that these families have very limited means of coping on their own, and there are simply not sufficient programmes in the pipeline to help them," he said.

Aid agencies are urging the Bangladeshi government and the international community to implement a comprehensive plan for ensuring affected families have safe and adequate shelter. With time running out before the start of the rains, the agencies are also recommending the launch of a major awareness raising campaign on safer building techniques.

"While the neediest families are entirely dependent on assistance, others are coping a bit better. Of the 1.5 million affected families, we estimate that more than a million are starting to rebuild their homes – but not all of them are building back safer," said Heather Blackwell of Oxfam, one of the operational agencies involved in the shelter coordination group.

"Some of the current building techniques are outright dangerous and could cause injuries once the winds and rains arrive. We need to make sure that people are aware of simple and practical techniques that make their homes more resistant to storms, floods and cyclones."

"The monsoon season is approaching and a broad range of activities needs to be undertaken now by the Government and the international community" added Nick Southern, country director for Care.

"And we're not just talking about shelter- without a roof over their heads people are also exposed to serious health and hygiene risks. The situation is deeply worrying."

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.