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Caritas aid gets through in cyclone-hit Bangladesh

Caritas aid gets through in cyclone-hit Bangladesh as donations mount

Vatican City, 20 November 2007 - Caritas has started the first round of food distribution for 120,000 people (23,500 families) in coastal Bangladesh in the aftermath of Cyclone Sidr.

The storm hit the coast of Bangladesh on 15 November, killing over 2,600 people, although that figure could rise towards 10,000 people as more remote areas are reached. At least 1.2 million have been made homeless in the worst disaster to hit the country in over a decade.

The Caritas Confederation, one of the largest aid networks in the world, has responded to the emergency with initial pledges of financial support of over USD 2 million.

Executive Director of Caritas Bangladesh, Dr Benedict Alo D’Rozario said, “During my visits to the affected areas of Bagerhat and Patuakhali districts, I have seen that the roofs of about 90% of the houses have been blown away. The big trees have been uprooted. Almost all the winter crops are destroyed. Even the roofs of many schools have been blown away and children do not know where their books are.

“Roads are yet to be cleared for vehicles and transport connections are not fully restored yet. No ferry is available to cross the river at Kalapara. People are still under open sky and searching for their valuables from the debris. Many of them are desperately looking for or waiting for their loved ones to return as thousands of them are still missing.

“Affected people’s main needs include shelter, safe water and food. Despite the relief effort, poor transport means there are still many people who are not getting enough food.”

Caritas Bangladesh has long-term development and disaster preparedness programmes in the worst-hit areas, which helped with the speed of response.

Under the first round of food distribution each of these 23,500 families will get 13 kg of rice and other food to last one week.

After completing the first round, Caritas will repeat food assistance to these same families. Under the second round, Caritas will add plastic sheets, bedding, mosquito nets, and cooking utensils for these families.

Over USD3.2 billion worth of crops have been destroyed resulting in the loss of food and income for millions of people. Caritas will be looking at the medium to long-term impact after the initial phase of the relief effort has ended.

Caritas Bangladesh started relief and rehabilitation activities in 1970 after a devastating cyclone to the coastal areas of the country. Since then, Caritas has been responding to various natural and man-made disasters in order to meet the basic needs of the affected people. So far, Caritas has spent over US$100 million for its relief and rehabilitation activities.

ENDS

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