Cyclone Amphan: more than two million affected in Bangladesh at the height of the pandemic

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Carlos Faneca
  • Caritas Bangladesh has activated its emergency response system.
    Caritas Bangladesh has activated its emergency response system. . Source: Caritas Bangladesh.
  • Caritas Bangladesh has offered immediate emergency assistance.
    Caritas Bangladesh has offered immediate emergency assistance. . Source: Kelly Lacy - Pexels.
  • Archive image of Bangladesh crops.
    Archive image of Bangladesh crops. . Source: Ariful Haque.

Caritas Bangladesh has activated its emergency response system to evacuate affected people and provide immediate assistance such as food, water and repairs to some of the 200,000 damaged homes.

The global impact of the Covid-19 is being huge, both in terms of the number of deceased and infected and the economic and social impact. And during this terrible situation, Bangladesh has suffered the effects of the cyclone Amphan which, according to first estimates, has affected more than two million people. Given this overall picture, Caritas Bangladesh has activated its powerful emergency response system to try to mitigate the effects of this natural disaster.

Bangladesh is a country that, due to its geographical location has suffered from many natural disasters such as cyclones, droughts and floods throughout its history. The latest, the cyclone Amphan on 20th May which affected, especially, the western part of the country in the regions of Khulna, Barishal and Rajshahi.

The government of Bangladesh made the initial estimates during the following weeks and, in addition to the two and a half million people affected, 26 people died and more than 200,000 homes have had some kind of damage, of which 60,000 are completely destroyed. Besides, damage has also been caused to roads, other facilities and crops. The government estimates an economic loss of 200 million euros.

Emergency aid

Francesca Petrilliggieri, responsible for the monitoring of Bangladesh at Caritas Spain, points out that the south Asian country has proved mechanisms to deal with natural disasters due to experience in these situations. "Even days before the cyclone they were preparing their response: thousands of people were evacuated from their homes and took to emergency shelters", she says.

Caritas Bangladesh also has powerful emergency response systems that have already been put into operation. "They have a large department in several regions, including the affected areas with experienced emergency response teams", explains Petrilliggieri. She explains that they have previously evacuated people were and that kept them in emergency shelters in addition to distributing immediate aid such as water and food.

Some of the damaged homes have already been repaired although, as the responsible for the monitoring of Bangladesh at Caritas Spain says, there is so much work ahead.

Natural disaster amid a pandemic

One of the aspects that has aggravated this already complicated situation has been that the cyclone Amphan has occurred amid the pandemic, when the population of Bangladesh had to stay home following the measures enacted by the government on March 26th. "The cyclone has come at a time when there already were serious difficulties among the population because of the global shutdown", says Petrilliggieri referring to the need for citizens to go out to work every day to have something to eat.

Evacuating the affected people to emergency shelters has made it more difficult to follow the recommended health measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, such as social distancing. Nevertheless, Petrilliggieri explains that this measure is already very difficult to accomplish in an overcrowded country, especially in the cities. "It is virtually impossible", she says.

In any case, people with Covid-19 symptoms have been able to stay at the emergency shelters in separate rooms. They have also ensured hygiene measures with handwashing stations and the use of masks, gloves and hand sanitizer for volunteers and people at risk.

Caritas Bangladesh has asked for financial aid to the international network to finance emergency, post-emergency and rehabilitation programmes for the most vulnerable communities. Thus, people who want to donate can do so through Caritas Spain clicking to the international cooperation area. Even if the emergency does not appear in the website, people who want to donate to this particular cause can write to the entity to do so.

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