The difficult road to recovery


Tahmina Shafique, Adnan Khandker, Saad Hammadi and Andrew Biraj take a look at the enormous damage done by tropical cyclone Sidr and the efforts required and so far taken to relieve and rehabilitate the affected areas

‘Please include my name in your list, I haven’t gotten anything yet,’ wailed 35-year Shorupjan to journalists. ‘All of my belongings have been washed away by the tide. In last few days I didn’t eat anything,’ said the resident of Shoronkhola union of Bagerhat district.

People of Shoronkhola union did not receive any relief food until the second day after the tropical cyclone ‘SIDR’ destroyed the whole area.

On November 17 and 18, a NGO distributed some relief food among the survivors near the cyclone shelter of Tafalbari. The villagers, however, alleged that only the loan members were on their list.

On November 19, the army distributed food along the river next to Bogi and Gabtola village at Shoronkhola. The relief efforts ended in chaos with many people left disgruntled not having received any food. ‘Only the strong ones in the crowd can push forward in this huge mass of people. It is impossible for women like me or the elders to get anything,’ said Shahera Khatun (35), who came to get aid with her two children, Munni (9) and Sohrab (2)

By the end of the day, three people were seen walking off with a full sack of rice while most victims received no more than a kilogram. ‘We have helped the army in distribution,’ was their explanation.

Shoronkhola finally began receiving attention after three to four days of the disaster. Both sides of the main street, from Rayenda to Lakurtola, filled up with temporary shelters built by Red Crescent Society who distributed cooked food, blankets and candles to the villagers. ‘I was able to give some rice to my son after two days. During these days we drank filthy water,’ said Wahidul Islam (45) standing among hundreds of people, queuing in the dusk.

In Lakurtola, Muslim Aid and Bangladesh German Friendship Organization (BGFO) also set up temporary shelters. The victims, who gathered from far-flung villages, received two meals a day on a regular basis. However, those who could not travel three to four miles up to the main street went without food.

Scores of people in the insides of Gabtola and Bogi live under the open sky and starve for food. Many women either failed to go to the shelters or did not get a ‘card’, while many children and elderly people are close to death from the cold weather. At Bogi, all the ponds have been damaged and there is no tube well to get water making the scarcity of drinking water acute. ‘Lots of people from our village took shelter beside the main street in Lakurtola and Tafalbari. They are getting everything but no one is coming inside the villages to see our misery,’ said 24-year old Shahinoor Begum.

Different organisations, from nearby villages to far-away cities, are gathering everyday with huge trucks and buses and distributing clothes, food and drinking water to the suffering people. ‘We received an unbelievable response while raising funds for Sidr victims,’ says a volunteer of Echakhata Grambashi, a local organisation who came to Shoronkhola with aid. ‘An old woman gave one of her few blouses for relief.’

Mismanagement of relief is, however, strongly evident. On relief party was seen throwing clothes from the top of a bus. People who have established temporary living places besides the streets are receiving most of the aid, on some occasions, a few times over. ‘I have received just two rounds of relief in the last seven days. There is no way to get any work either. But my children are starving,’ says Mosammat Nurjahan Begam (35) from Bokultala village of Shoronkhola.

Till date, when on walks the streets of Shoronkhola, the stench of decaying flesh buried under the fallen trees and houses is still very strong. ‘We have heard that a few bodies have been recovered from the sea today. Who knows what is lying underneath here- dead animals or human beings,’ said Abdus Sattar, a Red Crescent volunteer, on November 26.

The destruction left by Sidr in terms of the dead, the injured and sick, the starving and homeless, the loss of crops, houses, animals and infrastructure is gargantuan compared to the efforts for relief and rehabilitation that have begun.

Damages

Updated official report from ministry of food and disaster management (MOFDM) illustrates that the number of death has risen to 3060 affecting 6.8 million people of 1.6 million families. These casualties and damages of houses, livestock, crops, educational institutions, roads and embankments have been reported from 1811 unions of 200 upazilas of 31 districts. According to the Disaster Management Control Room (DMCR), 1180 people are missing, and roughly 7000 persons are injured. The total number of damaged houses stood at 1210685.

Different economists are assessing the economic loss using diverse techniques, but most have found the damage to be around Tk 6,000 crore. But the figure is sure to increase once the government prepares the final report of devastation. According to the primary estimation of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), Sidr caused property loss of Tk 6,500 crore. On the basis of data available from the MOFDM up to November 21, CPD calculated the loss of roads and bridges at Tk 1,100 crore, houses at Tk 750 crore, and trees at Tk 500 crore.

According to the primary assessment of ministry of agriculture (MOA), around 10 lakh tonnes of Aman rice production may be lost due to Cyclone Sidr along with other standing crops in an area of eight lakh hectares of land. Sidr has partially or totally damaged standing crops on around five lakh hectares of land in the south and south-western districts, causing a loss of around six lakh tonnes of food-crops, particularly the aman paddy, which makes up 41 per cent of the total rice production of the country.

MOA officials inform that the cyclone damaged standing crops of winter vegetables, oil seeds, pulses, transplanted aman paddy of local and high yielding varieties and seedbeds of boro rice on vast tracts of land. Among the damaged vegetable crops are cauliflower, radish, cabbage, lal shak, mustard seed and various varieties of pulses. Many fruit trees, mostly papaya and banana, have been flattened by the cyclonic winds.

‘Sixty per cent of the crops ravaged by Sidr have been completely destroyed. The total production of aman is likely to be decreased by 16 lakh tonnes as the recent flood caused a loss of 10 lakh tonnes of food-grains this year. The government had set an optimistic target of 1,30,00,000 tonnes of aman this year,’ says an official of MOA.

The country’s shrimp or frozen food industry, the second largest foreign exchange earner, fears an estimated loss of Tk 250 crore. As per Maqsudur Rahman, vice-president of Bangladesh Frozen Food Exporters’ Association (BFFEA) shrimp farms are likely to suffer 70 percent or Tk 175 crore of estimated loss in the three southern districts of Bagerhat, Satkhira and Khulna, which were severely ravaged by Sidr. Farms in this region are well known for their Black Tiger shrimp, also called Bagda shrimp locally.

Such a massive loss comes hard on the heels of TK 150 crore loss which shrimp farmers faced due to drastic fall in prices and demands on the international shrimp markets. ‘The rest of the loss, 30 percent or Tk 75 crore, is likely to be incurred by shrimp farms located in Barguna, Patuakhali, Firojpur, Madaripur and Gopalganj where fresh water shrimp, locally known as Golda, are cultivated. Bagda shrimp is cultivated on 1,30,000 hectares of land in the region while Golda is cultivated on 40,000 hectares of land. The farmers will not be able to sell their product to the exporters now as the hurricane washed away most of the shrimp enclosures and hatcheries,’ said Maqsudur.

In the meantime, Directorate of Fisheries (DOF) is assessing the loss caused by Sidr, especially the loss incurred by farmers. The DOF say that its teams are working in the field to measure the extent of loss and their final assessment would be available soon. But a top official of DOF points out that the losses may have been limited to a certain extent as this is the off-season for certain types of shrimp farming. ‘Fortunately, since this was an off-season for Bagda cultivation in the costal areas, according to our rough estimates, the loss may be around Tk 50 crore,” said a top official of DOF.

According to a primary assessment of the forest department (FD) about one fourth of the four lakh plus hectares of forest area of Sundarbans, has been damaged by Cyclone Sidr. The forest department officials inform that are yet to get a complete estimate of the damage inflicted upon the wildlife of the forest that provides livelihood for more than two million people. So far the department has found only 30 carcasses of deer, along with two human bodies. The department has also found a single evidence of death of Bengal Tiger.

Forest department officials say that the monetary value of the damage however has not been assessed yet. The forest department also has yet to start assessing the damage done to the trees in the affected areas outside the forest. However, the DMCR says that 3369366 trees have destroyed by Sidr. Sidr hit the eastern parts of the forest, especially Chandpai range including Kochikhali, Kotka, Hiron Point, and Dublarchar, leaving a trail of severe devastation.

Forest department officials say the south-eastern part of the forest sustained the main blow of the cyclone, saving human lives by slowing down the nature’s wrath. ‘The area of the Sundarbans is six lakh hectares. One fourth of the Sundarbans forest area has been damaged by the cyclone. Eight to ten percent of the forest has been damaged completely, and those trees will not grow, while fifteen percent has been partly damaged, a part of which will grow back,’ said a forest department official.

Officials of the ministry of health and family welfare (MOHFW) admit that the ministry fears an outbreak of diarrhoea and other water-borne diseases in the Sidr-affected areas which suffer from acute shortage of safe water and trained manpower to tackle such disaster.

‘The areas facing the most acute drinking water crisis are in most of the inaccessible areas, where relief agencies have hardly set foot. The pond is blackened by now-rotting trees that fell on the water during the cyclone. The poor quality of the water is evident as dead fishes are floating on the surface. Since all deep tube-wells are malfunctioning and all but two shallow tube-wells have been destroyed, people might drink water from unsafe sources,’ says an official of MOHFW.

Officials of MOFHW insist that outbreak of diarrhoea, pneumonia; eye soaring, typhoid, hepatitis and skin diseases are now major concerns for the government. ‘It would become an epidemic if any of the infectious diseases breaks out in shelter homes crowded with hundreds of homeless people,’ the official admits.

MOHFW officials admit that thousands of cyclone-affected people are being haunted by memories of family members killed by the deadly cyclone and may experience traumatic disorders. The people in the cyclone-ravaged areas may also suffer from stress-related disorders that might take a long time to cure. Therefore they need special treatment by psychiatrists. Dr Abul Barakat, professor of economics at Dhaka University also said that psychological trauma and the cost of treating injuries should also be included in the calculation of the property loss.

Nayeem Gawher Wara, emergency focal person of Save the Children-UK points out that the children are suffering the most from psychological trauma as elders are busy jostling for relief. ‘How will they care for their kids when they do not even know if they would get the minimum food they need to live on. ‘Deaths of parents and family members have left most of the children traumatised. It is very important to help them recover from the psychological damage,’ he added.

Education ministry official say that academic activities of around 10,000 institutions in 30 districts have been seriously disrupted because of the devastating cyclone Sidr, which badly damaged schools, colleges and madrassahs and education materials in these areas. Around 4,800 primary schools have been affected by Sidr and around 1,000 of them have been badly damaged. The annual examinations of classes I-X are scheduled to begin from December 3 while the first year exams of HSC students will start in the first week of December. The government had to adjourn exams at many institutions that went under floodwater while others were used as shelters for the flood-affected people. But officials reassure that delays are not expected this time around.

‘1,335 educational institutes in 30 districts, especially Bagerhat, Barguna, Patuakhali, Pirojpur, Bhola, Jhalakathi and Barisal, were completely damaged by Sidr. Only a few brick-built institutions survived the cyclone’s impact while 7,893 were damaged partially. A good number of books for primary level students are stored in the district education offices and the ministry has already directed the district education officers to distribute them among the students of the affected areas. So we are not expecting a delay,’ says the ministry official.

Damages to the infrastructure have also been massive. Rural Electrification Board (REB) has not yet been able to restore electricity supply. About 20 thousand kilometres of power supply lines out of 25 thousand kilometres under different Palli Biddut Samity (PBS) supplies have been damaged. Power supply is yet to be restored eleven days after the cyclone ravaged the area. The area includes nine districts of Barisal, Patuakhali, Barguna, Pirojpur, Bhola, Jhalakati, Madaripur, Shariatpur and Gopalganj.

The effect

Economists say that the effects of Sidr may endanger food security at the household and compel the government to spend a much higher amount of foreign exchange to import food-grain to meet the huge shortfall. Wahiduddin Mahmud, a senior economist forecasts a negative impact of the deficiency of food-grain on the market prices and also said it would create a livelihood crisis in the cyclone-affected areas unless massive relief works and post-cyclone rehabilitation programmes are undertaken right now.

‘The devastating cyclone, coming in the wake of prolonged floods, has dealt a severe blow to the livelihoods of a very large section of the population. The shortfall in the harvest of Aman rice will now be too large to be recouped by even a bumper Boro harvest,’ said Wahiduddin.

Wahiduddin predicted that while taking on the job of post-cyclone rehabilitation, the government would be inhibited by the already escalating budget deficit caused by subsidies for food, petroleum products and fertiliser, which alone might cost the government exchequer up to Tk 9,000 crore. ‘Not only would there be shortfall in food supply, the people would also lack purchasing power,’ added Wahiduddin.

Relief Operations

The Government of Bangladesh has swung into motion to rescue thousands of coastal dwellers, and has launched a relief operation with the support of international and local donors and volunteers. Yet, for people in remote villages, the relief has not arrived on time, and there is still uncertainty as to when it will actually arrive.

According to witnesses and volunteers, despite intensified relief operations by the government and local and foreign groups, thousands of survivors hoping for food were crowding river banks and roadsides. A number of data further point towards the fact that relief had not reached to countless worst affected areas.

‘There are still a number of worst hit areas which have not been reached,’ points out Dr Ainun Nishat, country director of IUCN Bangladesh. ‘That is simply because more relief goes into accessible areas rather than the remote ones. It is the responsibility of the Disaster Management Bureau (DMB) to ensure that it coordinates the whole operation and also links the community so that they can work together.’

The DMB officials on the other hand stress that they have been reaching out to the worst affected areas and their relief operation has been intensified. ‘We have reached to the four worst hit districts and continue our operations extensively,’ says G.M. Monsur Rahman, Director, Relief and Operations, DMB. According to Rahman, five thousand people have been given relief. ‘Starting from the beginning of next month, we will be supplying 38,850 metric tonnes of rice till March.’

‘The more effective rehabilitation program lies in ensuring the long term solvency for the worst affected people,’ says Dr. Nishat. ‘There is no point supplying them with only food for a few months, they need longer term solvency. What will happen to these people after a few months?’

According to aid workers, getting fresh water to victims remains to be a priority as the prospect of outbreaks of water-borne diseases looms. Many of those in coastal districts have seen their traditional sources of drinking water contaminated by saline water, which cannot be treated by water purification tablets. ‘Very few water purifying plants have been set up,’ points out Dr. Quasi Quamruzzaman, Chairman, Dhaka Community Hospital.

US marines from the USS Kearsarge, anchored off the southern coast, joined the aid effort last Friday with medical evacuations and air lifts of water supplies to some of the worst hit areas like Barguna.

Officials from the UN World Food Programme say they have been providing extensive food and relief assistance. They are also sending energy biscuits for 400,000 people.

Apart from this, several international organisations and donors have also poured in aid within the country. The German government offered 731,345 dollars, while the European Union released 2.2 million dollars in relief aid. The Rome-based World Food Program has sent out food, and the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society has sent a number of workers to the remote areas. ‘100,000 households will be provided with packages consisiting of 20 kgs of rice, 4 kgs of dal and 4 litres of Soy bean oil,’ said officials of Red Cresent. ‘Already total relief worth 74 lakh has been sent out.’

Washington has sent two US Navy amphibious assault craft to help authorities in relief and rescue operations.

Despite intensified relief opeartions, experts feel it is yet to be effective and reach out the worst areas, ‘Morover, more concrete and long term steps need to be taken,’ says economist Anu Muhammad. ‘The quality of packages of food that are coming in is again questionable. They are dropping packs from aircrafts into the water and, from past experience, we know that most of these are also rotten.’

Anu also mentions that the livlihood of those affected need to be taken into consideration.

‘They were in a distressed state long before the cyclone had hit these regions. After such disasters, it just becomes clear that the many NGOs poverty alleviation programs have not brought any change at all. If we need to take long term and concrete steps, it should start with the rehabilitation of these areas- restructuring and builiding infrastructure and creating opportunities.’

Health remains to be a major issue to be taken into consideration. ‘There are too few shelter homes and medications to treat the countless people across the affected areas. At the moment, a major concern remains to be the infections that are spreading,’ says Dr. Quamruzzaman. Apart from the infections, the cyclone has brought diseases such as diarrhoea, malaria and more.

Relief Coordination

Up to November 26, the official statistics charted more than seven million people affected in the devastating hurricane SIDR. Due to a lack of coordination as Lieutenant General Masud Uddin Chowdhury, principal staff officer of the Armed Forces Division pointed out on November 25, the relief arriving from all across the world for people in the affected regions is however, not effectively distributed among the sufferers. Some of the areas are having repetitions of relief distribution while some are going without any relief at all. Organisations distributing their relief goods in awareness of the district administration have witnessed others distributing relief in same areas without keeping any coordination with the local administration, he observed.

The caretaker government, the armed forces division, private organisations, associations, businessmen and many other donor agencies have come forward with their relief substances but they are having a difficult time in the coordination process, sources admit to New Age.

The director general of Department of Relief and Rehabilitation, Sadaruddin Ahmed, mentions that all government funds and materials are effectively distributed with proper channel of coordination.

Because of the earlier floods this year and having experiences with previous cyclones, the relief department has been well prepared this time. ‘We have relief foods stocked in district and upazila levels, which people are not aware of,’ says Sadaruddin.

Whatever problems are arising in the distribution process is happening more due to lack of information than coordination, he says. That the deputy commissioner should be the medium for any relief distribution, was decided in a cabinet meeting on November 24.

Since the middle of 1960s the relief department was established following a relief manual, which was later renamed to relief code. During disaster and crises periods, the deputy commissioner has always coordinated the relief efforts. However, in the current situation, an effective coordination is not possible without empowering the DCs, says Mohammad Asafuddowlah, a former bureaucrat. ‘This is exactly the reason why in some areas there are multiple donors distributing relief and in some, there is none.’

From this week the District Administration, Armed Forces Division (AFD), Department of Relief and Rehabilitation and the Chief Advisor’s Office are separately collecting relief. However, except for the Chief Advisor’s Office none are authorised to collect cash grants or relief funds.

The AFD is responsible for transporting the relief materials in coordination with an approximately 2,300-member US marine and defence team that has arrived in the country with its navy ship USS Kearsarge. Although Kearsarge is expected to be replaced by another navy ship USS Tarawa in a few days, officials have confirmed that it will have the same services available.

A total of three hovercrafts, two C130 fixed wing aircrafts and 20 helicopters of the US defence are being utilised for relief transportation in the affected regions. A coordination centre has been opened in Barisal this week which is acting as the hub for relief distribution, says Major JM Emdadul Islam of AFD.

The Defence forces have established 92 helipads in the affected regions for quick access and relief distribution, General Moeen U Ahmed, army chief said on November 25 at a press conference. More helipads are on the process to be made wherever relief materials are not reaching the affected people, said Emdadul Islam at a meeting on Sunday at the AFD.

‘We are regularly exchanging information between the government organisations working on the relief efforts and therefore any repetition is unexpected,’ says Sadaruddin.

A foreign aid coordination cell has been opened at the airport where we have six of our officials deputed. All the funds and relief materials that are arriving from the foreign governments are received and dispatched in coordination with the Disaster Management Bureau, he tells New Age. So far, relief has been received from India, Pakistan, Italy, Spain and USA through the government channel.

‘Any projection on the time to cover the relief distribution and rehabilitation will require at least three months for determining,’ says Sadaruddin.

The Bangladesh Red Crescent Society supported by the International Federation of Red Cross is however, running its independent relief operation in coordination with the district administration and Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) to ascertain locations where people require relief.

The Red Crescent has selected 18 districts to concentrate on out of the 31 affected districts. Relief substances worth Tk 74 lakh have so far been disseminated across the 18 districts while there are more funds waiting in the pipeline. It is now working out the disbursement of 2, 50,000 Swiss Franc from Emergency Disaster Response Fund of the Swiss Red Cross, said an official of the Red Crescent on November 25.

‘We have made an emergency appeal of Tk 140 crore to the Secretariat in Geneva which is in the process to launch an appeal centrally,’ says Captain BN (Retd) Mostafa Kamal, deputy secretary general of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society.

In addition, a number of foreign Red Cross and Red Crescent societies that have arrived in the country are independently conducting their assessments for relief grants.

‘Although the initial food relief were made in small quantities, we are on the verge to distribute a package of 20 kilogramme rice, 4 kg lintels and 2-litre soybean oil to 100,000 families in the nine worst affected districts that the government has divided in two tiers.’

‘Initially we could not reach the remote places because of road blocks and lack of transport but the situation has improved since the incident happened,’ says Mostafa. The Red Crescent is transporting its relief materials through its six trucks in Dhaka which offload the goods to its local units.

‘The doctors of our medical teams are at the job throughout the day as long as service and drugs are available. About 203 patients on average are visiting the Red Crescent clinics in the affected regions.’

A total of 18 medical teams have been formed and by the next two months another 12 will be added. The medical teams are working in coordination with the administration regarding the location for service, he says.

‘The next two months of the winter will be required entirely to provide medical treatment to the affected. Our plan is to continue this effort for at least the next six months which may be extended as per requirement,’ says a health coordinator of the Red Crescent.

The relief funds that we are receiving will take at least the next six months to fully utilise among the affected while the total rehabilitation process will require two years.

‘We have not studied the relief requirement in different areas but we are trying to meet the demand on priority basis,’ says Emdadul.

The DRR has selected 12 districts out of the initial 31 affected for distributing one and a half lakh metric tonne rice to 25.90 lakh families, says GM Mansur Rahman, director, relief and rehabilitation of the Disaster Management Bureau. ‘Relief requirements are gradually coming down. The remaining 19 districts can serve with the existing relief sanctioned from their regional relief stocks,’ he says.

Every family will continue to receive 15 kg rice up to March next year. In the worst affected districts like Bagerhat, Barguna, Patuakhali and Pirojpur, the distribution will be made among 5,000 people per union while the remaining eight districts will have grants for 2,500 people per union.

‘The effective population for the distribution will be ascertained by November 30 and the programme will begin from December 1,’ says Mansur. Food relief is available in every district as soon as it is sanctioned from the DMB and does not require to be transported as they are regionally stocked.

Any location for distribution is opted based on ground officials’ information. ‘The bridge failure on November 24 at the Kalapara upazila of Patuakhali district has been a lesson for us and we will be more careful from the next time,’ Emdadul told the media on Sunday.

‘However, the relief distribution carried in that area was not conducted by any government organisation,’ says an official source. ‘It was a private organisation that chose the location without informing the deputy commissioner of its relief work.’

‘The unions in every upazila have begun listing the victims in three tiers as the worst affected, affected and partially affected which will later be forwarded to the Upazila Nirbahi Officer to make decisions for relief distribution,’ says Sufi Zahiruddin, a former chairman of the Madbari upazila in the Pirojpur district.

Rehabilitation

The government has created a three-phase post-cyclone relief and rehabilitation programmes so that the Sidr victims may return to normal life. The MOFDM sources say that they have created both short and long term rehabilitation programmes for the cyclone-hit areas, which include repair of damaged roads and houses as well as saving the Sundarbans. ‘The one-month, short-term plan includes rescue, burial services, disposal of corpses, emergency service restoration, emergency relief, repairing drinking water sources and damage assessment. The four-month, medium-term rehabilitation programme, between December and March, focuses on house building, continuation of food support, reopening of educational institutions, preventing outbreak of epidemics and repair of roads, culverts and bridges,’ says the MOFDM official.

MOFDM officials inform that the government will run Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF) programme from December to March in the 12 districts. Fifteen kilograms of rice will be given to every VGF cardholder per month free of cost. The government will distribute 5,000 VGF cards among the poor in each union and pourasava in the four worst-affected districts. In the eight other districts, 2,000 VGF cards will be distributed in each union and poursava. A total of 25,90,000 cards will be distributed in the districts.

MOFDM officials said the government needs at least 10.68 lakh metric tonnes of food grains for the next seven months for different relief programmes. It needs 32,000 MT for gross relief programme, 2.01 lakh MT for vulnerable group feeding (VGF), 1.5 lakh MT for Test Relief, 1.85 lakh MT for the food for work programme, 2.5 lakh MT for open market sale (OMS), and 2.5 lakh MT for other programmes. The current stock of food grains in the country stands at 7.37 lakh MT while another 3.25 MT is in the pipeline.

The government has asked for five lakh metric tonnes of rice from the international community as assistance for tackling any possible food crisis in the country.

Ministry of Finance (MOF) officials say that the government has decided to allow farmers in the cyclone-hit areas to reschedule their outstanding farm loans they took from the state-owned banks. Cyclone-affected farmers would also be provided with fresh loans so that they can recover from the losses.

The government has decided to ask non-governmental organisations not to pressure cyclone victims to repay instalments of loans. News reports say that micro credit providers of the country are considering writing off over Tk 600 crore outstanding loans of some 7.5 lakh borrowers, severely affected by the cyclone. Although the micro credit providers are not going to make an announcement of the write-off right now, they might finally write the loans off since the small borrowers lost most of their houses, businesses, and other assets. In 12 south and south-western districts, some Tk 1,159 crore in loan remains outstanding with 15 lakh people, with 42 micro credit organisations operating in the region.

The MOF officials say that they have directed the state-owned banks to expedite the process of loan disbursement. The government has decided to lend Tk 130 crore from the fund of the finance ministry in soft credit to cyclone-stricken small traders and fishermen as well as for livestock and poultry for the revival of shattered livelihoods. ‘The MOF will disburse the funds through PKSF, which will operate the fund through micro-finance providing organisations,’ says an MOF official.

The MOFHW officials say that roughly 690 medical teams are working in 57 upazilas. Besides, 90 medical teams from 32 private medical colleges are also working in the affected areas. DCRM says that 5,140 tubewells out of 10,200 cyclone-damaged units have been repaired. Some 568 new tubewells have been sent to the affected areas, he said. Some 3.3 million water-purifying tablets, 8,000 jerrycans and drinking water were sent to the affected people.

This article was first published in New Age Xtra on November 30, 2007
http://www.newagebd.com/2007/nov/30/nov30/xtra_cover.html

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