Sunday, 18 November 2007

Tragedy in Bangladesh

I've been spending all the time I can spare from my work to read/blog/debate about the political situation in Pakistan, so I haven't had the time to blog about any of the various other matters happening around the globe that have caught my attention.

These are many and varied, from the apparent down-turn in violence in Iraq, the upcoming elections in the United States, the situation Afghanistan etc., none of which I have time for at the moment. But I do want to share some thoughts about the current tragedy in Bangladesh, which has been hit by Cyclone Sidr, the worst storm to hit the country for decades, according to the BBC.

I've been following reports mostly from The 3rd World View blog, which has constant updates, a variety of sources of information and links to numerous other blogs and websites covering the situation in Bangladesh. The confirmed death toll has crossed 2,000, and according to reports, will probably cross 5,000 as contact with remote villages is re-established. The devastation to livestock, homes and crops is enormous.

The last major cyclone of this type to hit Bangladesh claimed more than 140,000 lives in 1991. In 1970, when Bangladesh was still East Pakistan, a similar storm killed an estimated
500,000 people. The significantly lower casualties this time round have been attributed to the effectiveness of a Cyclone Preparedness Program (CPP) funded by the International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) bulletin which incorporates the services of over 34,000 BDRCS volunteers, reaching approximately 1.1 million people. In effect NGOs had created a grassroots, low-cost early warning network that could alert people to the coming danger of the cyclone in advance, so that they could get to shelter.

Still the scale of the devastation means that those who survived are still at risk. The devastating 1970 cyclone was followed by the dislocation of a large number of rural poor, which combined with other factors to produce a famine in 1974. The 3rd World Blog also lists ways in which people living abroad might be able to help.

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