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Fighting Back: The ‘Roanu’ cyclone survivors

August 28th, 2016 by Posted in Uncategorized

Prepared by M B Akhter, Programme Director, Oxfam

(Field visit report on Roanu response during 06-07 June 2016)


Fighting Back: The ‘Roanu’ Cyclone Survivors 


‘We have received rice from Union Council, money from CODEC and now we are trying to rebuild our house and repair the boats to go fishing. We are now thinking about how to quickly restart our livelihood activities as the Eid (biggest festival of Muslims) is coming,’ said a female survivor.

On the 17th day of the Roanu Cyclone, the impact is clearly visible but the inspiring part is that the communities are fighting back strongly to restore their normal day to day life. Since the labour cost is high so as an adaptive mechanism people are helping each other to rebuild their houses. Small traders are trying to restart business without enough capital but with the confidence of getting support from the market actors. Housewives are critically thinking of sending their children to school and helping their male counterpart in restarting the livelihood initiatives. I did not see people complaining much about the relief distribution, they are rather talking about the need for repairment of the damaged embankment which is the main cause of the washout of their houses during the cyclone.

People of these two villages are poor fisherfolk, only a few of whom own the small boats and the rest are either labour working in those fishing boats IMG_1935or are engaged in fish trading. Women are playing a traditional role and as per community views they are not going out to earn and the young women and girls are also not allowed to go to school.  The visiting villages are mostly affected villages of Khankhanabad Union under Banskhali upazilla, among which almost all the houses are fully or partially destroyed. Right after the cyclone, Disaster Management and Relief Minister along with Water Resource Minister visited those particular villages and asked the local administration to extend relief. Apart from the government initiatives Oxfam and CODEC have jointly assessed the impact and found around 1300 households are badly affected and among them around 600 households require immediate response and recovery support in those 2 villages. Based on our own assessment and findings of the Joint Need Assessment (JNA) team, Oxfam has initiated the emergency response with the START fund. The response package from Oxfam includes:

(a) an unconditional cash grant of BDT4000/- (b) hygiene kits valued BDT. 1200/-

(b) hygiene kits valued BDT. 1200/-

During our visit, we have also seen that CARITAS is engaged in immediate response.


IMG_1968 The inspiring features:

  • The response is well coordinated with local partners, local government administration and local government elected body. These 3 stakeholders are closely working in targeted households selection and emergency distribution.
  • The immediate food requirements (rice) is being covered by the government. As per the statement of local Union Council Chairman Al Haj Abu Nabi Siddiqui government has allocated 82 MT rice for the cyclone victims and has already been distributed.
  • Oxfam disbursed BDT4000 unconditional cash grants. Most of the households are using that fund in either repairing their ruined houses or restoring livelihood options.
  • According to the survivors, they have received 20-30 kgs of rice from local the Union Council, therefore they don’t have to spend money to buy rice IMG_1953rather they are spending it on building temporary shelters because of the everyday rain and the upcoming monsoon season.
  • Union Council has also initiated few social security projects like repairing the connecting roads which are also creating employment opportunity for the survivors, contributing to the local level fund flow and restoring the local market.
  • The local level markets have started functioning immediately though the owners said that due to the cyclone they lost most of the stuff and it took one week to repair and restart the shops. At the beginning, the sale was very low but now it is increasing. People are buying package food and other cooking stuff except rice because rice is coming from the government.
  • The partners’ staff are not well trained on the humanitarian emergency response but I found them very active in the selection process, disciplined in distribution and listening to the people.
  • I found the community and the local administration very much satisfied with Oxfam’s methodology of targeted household selection, distribution, and follow-up initiatives.


IMG_1938The challenges:

  • The information we are getting from the community regarding the early warning system is a bit upsetting. As per the cyclone forecast, the cyclone was supposed to hit Chittagong coast around 1.00 pm but local people said that the high tide with wind actually hit at 10.00 am. That is why most of the families were not able to take away their household stuff to the cyclone shelter.
  • Families are trying to reconstruct their houses with the available materials but one of the immediate needs is rooftop building materials. People are living in miserable conditions with some families still living at the cyclone shelter or at a relative’s house.
  • Restoring the livelihood of the fisherfolks, small traders and day labours are also key aspects of the recovery phase. As most of the boats and nets are destroyed, the fishing labours are sitting at home without work.
  • The possibility water-borne diseases being widespread because the available latrines are not properly repaired after the cyclone and the communities are also not following proper hygiene practice.
  • Media was very active during the first 2-3 days but there is hardly any coverage now due to which the stakeholders may not take the recovery phase seriously.
  • The 40 km long embankment has been completely destroyed therefore the coastal community of Banskhali and Anwara upazilla are seriously worried and annoyed as they will have to face the high tide and high tidal surge regularly and will not be able to rehabilitate their houses.
  • The Water Resource and Development Minister assured the community that, the repairing of embankment will start very soon but the local community and civil society of the Khankhanabad union are concerned about the quality of the work.

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