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BANGLADESH: International cyclone aid tops US$233 million

DHAKA, 5 December 2007 (IRIN) - International assistance to victims of last month's devastating cyclone in Bangladesh has now reached more than US$233 million, a senior UN official has confirmed.

"The donor community has shown generosity in its response to Cyclone Sidr," Renata Lok Dessallien, the UN resident coordinator for Bangladesh, told IRIN in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital.

"By making funding swiftly available, they will help pay for a wide range of relief activities to ease the plight of the cyclone's victims," she said.

Over 3,200 people were killed and millions more left homeless when the powerful category four storm slammed into the country's southwestern coastal area on 15 November - badly affecting nine of the country's 64 districts.

Saudi Arabia has topped the list of contributions made thus far, with just over $100 million, followed by the USA, Japan, the UK and Kuwait, with $19.5 million, $18 million, $14 million and $10 million respectively.

The UN itself is delivering over $15 million, including monies granted by the UN's Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).

Other significant contributions pledged include almost $9.4 million from the European Commission, $7.4 million from the Netherlands, as well as donations from Canada, Norway, Australia, Sweden, Belgium, and others, while Islamic Relief has offered over $8 million.

Such funds will prove invaluable in supporting the Bangladesh's humanitarian efforts, the UN’s Dessallien said, making specific mention of the Saudi contribution, as well as the US military's assistance in airlifting much needed relief to those areas particularly difficult to reach.

"But the storm was colossal and the needs are great, both in the short and long term," said Dessallien.

"As we move from the phase of immediate relief operations to recovery and rebuilding, we urge donors to remain engaged in the situation. It is estimated that the cyclone caused damage worth around $2.3 billion. With such destruction, the need for further funding is significant," he said.

Damage greater than originally thought

Over 8.5 million people were affected by the storm, roughly 1.5 million more than previously estimated, while the number of injured had grown by an additional 5,000 persons, bringing the total to 40,000.

Nearly 564,000 homes were completely destroyed - 200,000 more than initial estimates, while almost 900,000 had been damaged.

Over 2 million acres of crops were damaged and over 1.25 million livestock confirmed dead, the latter figure being more than two times greater than originally thought.

At the same time, reports continue to come in on the extent of damage to roads and public buildings, including over 15,000 educational institutions.

“As more information becomes available, an even grimmer reality is being revealed,” a statement by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on 4 December.

In the aftermath of the cyclone, the World Bank pledged funding of up to $250 million to help millions of Bangladeshis recover and to strengthen the country's disaster mitigation systems, while the Asian Development Bank is formulating a relief and reconstruction proposal worth $150 million, potentially above $200 million, pending co-financing arrangements.

Bangladesh welcomes aid

The international humanitarian response is being coordinated through six groups, under the leadership of the Ministry of Food and Disaster Management.

In a statement on 3 December, Bangladesh’s chief adviser, Dr Fakruhddin Ahmed, the head of the country’s emergency government, welcomed the support from the international community.

"The solidarity and compassion is evident in the support we received from our friends all over the world. We would like to transform these gestures of support into securing a long-term solution to our suffering," said Dr Ahmed.

The chief adviser outlined a number of projects that would be part of a sustainable system of protection against natural disasters, including the construction of embankments, dykes, and cyclone shelters.

"We have to undertake a large programme of infrastructure projects that will make the region a more attractive place to live and invest. We cannot allow the cyclone victims to permanently slide down into poverty," he said.



Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

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