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Repairing lives after Cyclone Sidr

Our day started with a one hour flight by sea plane to the Khulna division of Bangladesh.  It was great to go somewhere that can normally only be reached in 8-10 hours by car in less than an hour.

The area we visited was very poor. 30% of the population live on less than 20-40 taka per day (around 40p) and the majority of people rely on rainwater harvesting for their water so after cyclone Sidr, water was and continues to be a major challenge for this area.

First of all, we met the local union council who play a key central role in the community, coordinating response activities and identifying the most vulnerable people.  Save the Children makes a point of working closely with local partners like this and has excellent relations with them which is great to see.

We then visited a school and saw all the materials Save the Children has provided – part of the school was rebuilt and children were provided with backpacks which contained education and learning materials.  Save the Children has also designed an activity book and game board for children to play to learn about disasters and how to prepare.  For example, children are shown how they should bury their families most important assets to ensure they are safe and can be reclaimed after the cyclone has passed.

We also met a number of families who have benefited from Save the Children’s longer-term response and development work.  Save the Children has supported rebuilding of small businesses, provided families with assets such as cows and provided female-headed households who lost their husbands in the cyclone with financial support that is helping them to rebuild their lives and provide for their children in the long term.

I also got the opportunity to talk to some women and children about how they have been engaged with disaster risk reduction (DRR) activities and what their concerns are for the future.  It taught me the lesson that while it is important to focus on major disaster events such as cyclones, the women were also concerned about water availability and how the weather is becoming less and less predictable.  They said the weather is too hot and there is less rainfall than before which is affecting their ability to grow crops. While these events don’t in themselves represent a mass disaster, they have the potential to throw poor families into deeper levels of poverty.

Tomorrow we are going to Barisal, the area that was most affected by the cyclone to see more DRR and preparedness activities in action.

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