1 June 2009

Its change of mind came as the magnitude of damage done by cyclone Aila

The government ultimately backtracked on its stance against seeking foreign aid to tackle the cyclone aftermath and now felt the necessity of calling for donors'' assistance to foot a huge bill for feeding and rehabilitating millions of hard-hit people, reports UNB. Its change of mind came as the magnitude of damage done by cyclone Aila, in terms of loss of life and property, kept coming to light and the government made a fairly big allocation of Tk 249 crore for relief and rehabilitation operations. Food and Disaster Management Minister Dr Abdur Razaque, after an inter-ministerial meeting on Sunday evening, came up with his changed view, saying that foreign aid is now essential to deal with the huge losses incurred by the coastal communities, who are unprotected from the brackish water of the Bay. While talking to reporters after the meeting at the Food and Disaster Management Ministry, he, however, said the government does not want to go begging but "will welcome any foreign aid". Dr Razzaque also urged all political parties and civil society to come forward to help out the affected people and to stay beside them until total recovery from the disaster-a double hit as Aila lashed at the coast while people were yet to rebuild their life and livelihood wrecked by the 2007 super-cyclone Sidr. He said they have consulted various foreign donors and they assured the government of extending all-out cooperation in addressing the post-cyclone situation. Dr Razzaque said they couldn''t figure out the extent of damage completely even after the passage of seven days since the cyclone struck. "We''re yet to calculate how much money will be needed to rehabilitate the distressed people who are badly affected by the Cyclone," he said. He said the government pulled its highest efforts to overcome the post-cyclone critical situation using its internal mechanisms. The Minister admits that safe drinking water and food distribution apparently became daunting problems. "We''ve already decided to allocate Tk 10 crore more for food and safe drinking water supply." Another amount of Tk 20 crore will be allocated for rehabilitating the affected people and rebuilding their houses. The meeting also decided to allocate Tk 116 crore for repairing damaged embankments. Of the total, Tk 75 crore will be given in terms of wheat and the remaining Tk 41 crore in cash. Army personnel will be engaged in repairing embankments of Ashashuni, Shyamnagar and Shoronkhola while the remaining embankments will be repaired by Water Development Board, the Minister informed the reporters. As per the calculation of Local Government Ministry, a total of 736-km roads were damaged fully for which Tk 103 crore will be spent for repairs, Dr Razzaque said. In the meantime, one more body was recovered from the Aila-hit area Sunday, taking the official death toll to 168 from the fatal storm that hit the country''s southern coastal districts last Monday afternoon. According to data provided by the control room of Food and Disaster Management Ministry, none is missing now even though officials concerned earlier had said 10 might have been washed away by tidal surge. Meanwhile, the government has taken all necessary steps to provide healthcare services to the Aila-affected people, said a Health and Family Welfare Ministry. Health Minister AFM Ruhal Haq said a total of 891 medical teams are working in the cyclone-hit areas. He hoped that they would be able to bring the situation under control. Besides, adequate oral saline, water-purification tablets and other medicines have been sent to the affected areas, officials said. In its initial assessment report, the control room said the cyclone affected around 3606116 people of 801602 families in 67 upazilas of 12 districts. Some 7,108 people were injured and 95,325 domestic animals perished in the cyclone. Standing crops on some 75,119.8 acres of land were damaged completely while on 25,2,286 acres partially by the devastating cyclone. Besides, about 227,447 houses were fully damaged while 313,904 partially. Meanwhile, 15,150 metric tons of rice has been distributed among the storm-hit people in the coastal belt as relief while Tk 2,75,00,000 in cash. Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury, Health Minister AFM Ruhal Haq, Water Recourses Minister Romesh Chandra Sen and Fisheries and Livestock Minister Latif Siddiqui joined the meeting. Earlier, a secretarial-level meeting was also held for a review of the post-cyclone situation and relief and rescue operation. Meanwhile, the US government will provide $295,000 as disaster-relief assistance following the cyclonic storm ''Aila'' that battered Bangladesh''s southwestern coastal districts last week. United States Ambassador James F Moriarty has issued "disaster declaration" due to the magnitude of the damage caused by Aila, an announcement from the embassy said Sunday. This declaration will provide US$100,000 from the US Agency for International Development''s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) to CARE and World Vision for emergency assistance to the cyclone-affected areas. In addition, the US Government, through USAID, will provide US$ 195,000 for emergency survival packs that include plastic sheeting, eating utensils, candles, rope, soap, matches and mosquito netting to distribute to Aila-affected people. The US has deployed 14 mobile water-purification machines to supply drinking water, as brackish seawater whipped inland by the cyclone polluted most sources of drinking water. Each unit is capable of producing 50,000 liters of clean drinking water per day, providing 700,000 liters per day to 70,000 households left without a drop to drink. The Government of the United States, working closely with partners in disaster relief and mitigation in Bangladesh for many years, provided $111.5 million in the aftermath of Cyclone Sidr in November 2007 to provide new income opportunities, restore property, and help rebuild lives. The Government has funded construction and maintenance of multipurpose flood and cyclone shelters throughout the country as well as wave-protection walls and earthen embankments to reduce flood damage. "In addition to building nearly 4,000 such structures since 2005, USAID has trained local disaster-management committees to oversee emergency response activities and provided cyclone-preparedness training," the release said.