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Caritas helps in the fight against disaster

Fighting back against the damage done by cyclones

A cyclone center in coastal Bangladesh A cyclone center in coastal Bangladesh
  • Sumon Corraya, Dhaka
  • Bangladesh
  • March 27, 2012
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For the past two decades, Caritas has been tackling the challenge of reducing the risk to lives and livelihoods in the disaster-prone coastal region of southern Bangladesh.

The Catholic Church’s social service agency has planted tens of thousands of trees to erect a ‘green wall’ against the frequent tropical storms, cyclones and tidal bores.

It has also constructed 244 cyclone shelter centers in 11 coastal districts, each with the facility to accommodate up to 1,000 people. Construction and maintenance costs for a center add up to around four to 10 million taka (US$ 48,000-120,000).

To make the most of this considerable outlay, many of the centers are also being used as schools.

“We’ve been offering school facilities in 58 of the centers,” said Benedict Alo D’Rozario, executive director of Caritas Bangladesh. “Besides bringing immediate protection and relief from disasters,  Caritas also works to develop employment skills and opportunities for people.”

He was speaking at the opening of the latest center in the village of Chakamaiya, about 280km south of the capital, Dhaka. Caritas Switzerland and Caritas Luxemburg aided this latest initiative.

Jakia Parvin, a 50-year-old housewife, recalled how one of the Caritas centers saved her life when the latest cyclone, Aila, struck in 2009.

“At least 2,000 people like me took shelter in the center when the cyclone raged through the area. We headed straight there after hearing the disaster warning,” she said.

According to the Ministry of Food and Disaster Management, as many as seven million people in the southern region are vulnerable to natural disasters. It is also estimated that, while there are about 3,000 cyclone centers in the country today, more than double that number is needed.

But despite the scale of the task and the horrifying death tolls, statistics suggest that Bangladesh has made progress in its disaster preparations.

About 500,000 people died in a cyclone in 1969, with another 143,000 killed by another cyclone in 1991. Yet the fatalities from cyclone Sidr in 2007 and cyclone Aila in 2009 were no more than around 10,000 each time.

Related Reports:

Cyclone Shelters Save Thousands Of Lives

 
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