Cyclone Bulbul: Affected people must receive financial assistance

Cyclone Bulbul that recently made a landfall in Bangladesh did not cause much damage to nature and people as feared in the beginning. In fact, we have been paying more heed to the damage of the Sundarbans rather than focusing on the total damages caused to the people.

It is prudent to focus on the forest as it blocked the cyclone from causing severe destruction. Sundarbans minimised the loss of the people, but was damaged itself. Lots of trees collapsed, animals’ natural habitats were destroyed and saline water mixed with fresh water inside the forests. A survey has been undertaken to get an overall estimation of these losses.

People may not be able to compensate for the loss of Sundarbans. Experts say that the Sundarbans itself can withstand all its damage. What we need to do is not to disturb the forest. People can be prohibited from going to the forest for some time. Tourists and others were banned from entering Sundarbans for a week. The term is over now. Yet, we would recommend limiting people’s access to the forest at all times. It has to be ensured that the crowd of curious people do not gather to see the Sundarbans affected by the storm.

We feel that the people have not received as much attention as the Sundarbans have got after the cyclone. One of the reasons is that not many people were killed. Unless a good number of people die, people don’t bat an eye here. In addition, the affected people did not get much importance because of news that the cyclone ‘did not do much harm to the people’ was spread in the media.

The long-term effects of natural disasters such as cyclone and tornado, however, are less visible than the immediate losses. The struggle and suffering of a large number of affected people are indescribable.

However, the visible damage due to the cyclone Bulbul has not yet been over. A large number of houses have been destroyed or partially damaged. The struggle to build or repair a new home is very hard as most of the people do not have cash. Those whose homes have been completely demolished are still camping in the open air. This number is high in Satkhira district.

Amon crops were severely damaged by Bulbul while shrimp ‘ghers’ (water bodies to cultivate shrimp) were washed away in the tidal wave. Most of the rural population in the southern region is employed in these two sectors. They have become unemployed due to the cyclone. They are broke and women and children of these families are at great risk of health hazards. After such a disaster, women and children of poor quarters who are already suffering from malnutrition are exposed to further deterioration in their nutritional status.

The government has many responsibilities for the large number of people affected by the cyclone Bulbul. Firstly, financial assistance should be provided to build new houses to the people whose houses were completely demolished. Secondly, the government must provide special allowance for those who have lost their employment opportunities, at least for the next two to three months. Thirdly, steps need to be taken to reduce the health risks of women and children, especially pregnant women.