One week after Cyclone Aila struck southern Bangladesh [and West Bengal and Orissa in India], survivors in some areas are facing acute shortages of drinking water after many water sources were contaminated.
“The dire situation has yet to improve,” Mohammad Badi Akhter, Oxfam’s acting chief of operations in Dhaka, told IRIN, noting the government was calling on NGOs to beef up their operations, particularly for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).
Despite relief efforts by the government, NGOs, the UN and international agencies, thousands of people on islands had yet to receive any kind of relief assistance. Even on the mainland, scores of people were still trapped in their homes, surrounded by stagnant floodwater.
“I don’t see any possibility of the waters receding before the end of the monsoon,” said a water engineer from the Sharankhola area of Bagerhat District. This translates into the end of September [ 2009]: the consequences of the storm may turn out worse than expected.
[...] Lack of drinking water was forcing many to go hungry as they were unable to cook the food they had received from relief agencies.
Over 1,400km of flood protection embankments were washed away by Aila, exposing thousands of villages just as the monsoon is beginning, the country’s Disaster Management Bureau reported.
The main sources of drinking water in coastal areas are ponds, wells and tube wells, but many have been contaminated. “I had to walk five miles [8km] to get one pitcher of drinking water. All the sweet water ponds and tube wells were flooded by sea water,” said Motia Banu, a resident of Burirchar Union, Borguna District. [In week of 1-7 June 2009, the ICCDR,B estimated that 2000 to 3000 patients suffered from diarrhoea every day in the affected areas, of whom 20-30 patients were severely affected, and three people has died - ICDDR,B, 09 Jun 2009].
Meanwhile, the UN Children’s Fund and the government’s Department of Public Health Engineering are working with Action contre la Faim, ActionAid, BRAC, CARE, CARITAS, Catholic Relief Services, NGO Forum, Islamic Relief, Muslim Aid, Save the Children USA, Solidarites, Oxfam GB and Water Aid to improve the WASH situation.
UNICEF is procuring 70,000 bags of oral rehydration salts and pre-positioning 12.5 million water purification tablets, essential drugs and 135.7 tons of high-energy BP-5 biscuits.
“We have mobilised volunteers throughout the affected region. They are providing dry food, water purification tablets and oral rehydration solutions,” Mohamad Abul Quasem, an officer of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS), told IRIN.
Source: IRIN, 02 Jun 2009
As of 10 June 2009, the death toll from Cyclone Aila according to the government was 190 and over 3.9 million people has been affected.
The WASH cluster/ working group [were carrying out an assessment for further assistance regarding water and sanitation. A rough estimate indicates about 500,000 to 750,000 people are seeking immediate water supply and sanitation supports. Most of the ponds have saline water contamination making them unfit to support drinking and other domestic water supply for the communities. Water purification is carried out by agencies such as CARE/Oxfam GB, DPHE, Save the Children USA, WVI. Bangladesh Army is also supporting water trucking to the locations [that] are difficult to reach by other agencies. Beside providing pure water many WASH working group agencies are working on restoration of potable water sources by dewatering/disinfecting ponds and tube-wells.
Source: Govt of Bangladesh / Reliefweb, 11 Jun 2009
For the latest updates on Cyclone Aiila water and sanitation relief efforts in Bangladesh see ReliefWeb.
Across the border in “over 5.1 million people have been affected in 16 districts of West Bengal, and over 500,000 houses either damaged or destroyed”, according to a release by the OPEC Fund for International Development (OPIC) on 8 June 2009. A week after the cyclone hit West Bengal, the Indian Express (02 Jun 2009) reports how the people on the islands of Sunderban had still not received any government relief. “Nine-year-old Sandeepa Gharami survived Cyclone Aila, but succumbed in its aftermath. She died on an embankment near Lahiripur on Friday after several days of continuous vomiting and diarrhoea. She received no medical care. Her parents buried her by the river”.