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Catastrophe is just beginning for Bangladesh

100,000 lives saved, but the catastrophe is just beginning for Bangladesh

Early warning systems and shelters saved an estimated 100,000 lives in last week's Cyclone Sidr, but Oxfam is warning that without a massive international response the country faces its worst humanitarian crisis in decades.

Devastation of the country's agriculture from both the cyclone in the south and this summer's severe floods in the north have led to increasing food prices, while fuel prices have rocketed by 50 percent.

The early warning systems, introduced over the last 15 years, new cyclone shelters and better planning has meant that more than 100,000 people were saved from the immediate impacts of last week's cyclone compared to the loss of life in a similar cyclone in 1991. But with the country's agriculture in ruins vast numbers of people are now threatened with food shortages.

More than 3 million people are thought to have been affected by the cyclone, with around 3000 people dead, and a similar number missing; 273,000 homes have been destroyed and more than 900,000 damaged; while 855,000 acres of crops have been damaged and nearly 30,000 acres completely destroyed according to government figures.

Heather Blackwell, Oxfam's country representative for Bangladesh said: "Across huge areas there is no food except what is dropped in by helicopters.

"There are so many people without homes or basic sanitation, and who are now likely to be unable to get food, that Bangladesh is facing its most serious humanitarian disaster in many decades.

"Many thousands were saved by better planning, but cholera and malnutrition may have devastating impacts if aid does not arrive soon."

In New Zealand, Oxfam has launched a $75,000 appeal to help relieve the problems affecting the country.

In Britain, Man Booker Prize winning author Monica Ali is urging the public to get behind Oxfam's international appeal for Bangladesh.

"It's been distressing for me to see and hear of the devastation in my home country Bangladesh," says Monica Ali. "Millions of people are affected, left without homes, crops and essential daily necessities such as water and sanitation. They urgently need our help to get back on their feet."

Oxfam has been working with local partners since Cyclone Sidr struck on Thursday, with teams in the worst-hit southern districts of Bagerhat, Pirojpur, Barguna and Patuakhali assessing and providing urgent relief such as sanitation and food and water. The money raised from our appeal will be used to continue to provide relief such as essential sanitation, food and water, shelter, well and latrine cleaning, and debris clearing, as well as helping people get back on their feet.

Bangladeshi-born Ali is an active supporter of Oxfam and last year travelled to Uganda to see Oxfam's programme work.

The New Zealand public can donate to the Oxfam appeal, by calling 0800 400 666 anytime, online at www.oxfam.org.nz or they can make a $20 instant donation by phoning 0900 600 20.


Heather Blackwell is available for interviews to give the latest updates from Bangladesh.

Notes to editors:

1. Cyclone Sidr hit Bangladesh at around 8pm on Thurs 15 Nov.

2. Oxfam's partners have been working in Daerhat, Pirojpur, Barguna and Patuakhali some of the worst hit districts.

What your donation could buy:

$90 will provide hygiene kits for two families that contain soap, towels, washing bowls, sanitary pads and other essential items.

$130 will provide 20 buckets to store safe clean water.

$260 will provide hygiene kits for six families.

To donate to the Oxfam appeal, the public can:

Call 0800 400 666 (24 hours)

Donate online at: www.oxfam.org.nz

Make a $20 instant donation by phoning 0900 600 20

See Oxfam NZ website at www.oxfam.org.nz


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