Post-cyclone situation in Bangladesh much worse than understood – UN agencies

3 December 2007 –

The humanitarian situation in Bangladesh in the wake of last month’s devastating Cyclone Sidr is much worse than previously understood, United Nations aid agencies said today after revising their estimates of the number of people affected and the scale of the damage to homes and other infrastructure.

More than 8.5 million people are now estimated to have been affected by the storm, about 1.5 million more than originally thought, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). It said more funds may be needed from donors to help authorities cope with the situation.

“As more information becomes available, an even grimmer reality is being revealed,” OCHA said in a press statement, noting that about 2.6 million Bangladeshis across nine districts of the South Asian delta country still need immediate life-saving assistance.

The death toll has increased slightly to 3,268, the number of people considered missing is 872 and the number of injured has been revised upward by 5,000 to almost 40,000. The material damage is also more severe than understood: nearly 564,000 homes have been completely destroyed, a leap of 200,000 on earlier reports, while another 885,280 houses have been damaged.

OCHA said at least 1.25 million livestock have been confirmed killed, more than twice the previous estimate, and the area of cropland damaged has risen to 2 million acres.

Food, shelter and cash remain the three highest priority areas for emergency assistance, according to the latest UN humanitarian assessments, but sanitation, drinking water, electricity and livelihood assistance are also seen as critical.

So far the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has disbursed $14.7 million to help with relief efforts in the most affected areas of Bangladesh, while international donors have contributed over $143 million.

But OCHA said even more money could be needed to storm-affected Bangladeshis given the rising tolls and the identification of new needs among the population.

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