Cyclone Sidr hit south and south-west coasts of Bangladesh late on 15 November with winds up to 240 km/hour that whipped up 5 metre tidal surge. The category 4 tropical storm was the strongest cyclone since 1991. |
Disaster preparedness measures, by which 3.2 million people were evacuated to safe places, mitigated the negative effects of the Cyclone. However, official reports from the Disaster Management Bureau (DMB) by 29 November, estimate 3 268 casualties, 872 persons missing and over 8.54 million people adversely affected as a result of the cyclone. Out of the 64 districts of the country, 30 were hit by the cyclone and report severe damage to housing, with almost 1.45 million houses totally or partially destroyed, roads, bridges, crops, livestock and fishery infrastructure. Four districts, Bagerhat, Barisal, Patuakhali, and Pirojpur concentrate 47 percent of all the affected families. (See map)
Rice is the main staple food in the country and by far the most important food crop, with an average annual production of 27 million tonnes (milled terms) grown in three cropping seasons: “aus, “aman” and “boro”. Small amounts of rice are imported averaging 800 000 tonnes in the past five years. In addition, the country imports annually average 2 million tonnes of wheat to satisfy domestic cereal consumption.
At the time of the passage of cyclone Sidr, the main 2007 “aman” rice crop, accounting for about 50 percent of the annual production, was ready for harvest. After two weeks of the cyclone’s arrival, a comprehensive assessment of the damage on the agricultural sector is not yet available, as priority has been to provide for shelter, food, water and medical care to the affected people. However, preliminary data from the DMB indicates that some 841 000 hectares of rice and other standing crops were totally or partially damaged. This area represents about 8 percent of the total area cultivated with paddy crop, but at localized level the losses are substantially higher. In 11 of the worst affected coastal districts, crop losses are estimated at 95 percent of the cultivated area. In terms of volumes, a recent United Nations report provisionally estimates losses at 800 000 tonnes of Aman crops, mainly paddy. Livestock losses are also reported to be severe with large numbers of cattle, buffalo, goats and poultry killed. Latest reports from DMB put the number of animals killed close to 1.2 million, most of which are believed to be ruminants. Localized devastation to fisheries infrastructure and the shrimp aquaculture sector is also reported, with shrimp hatcheries badly hit, particularly in Satkhira, Khulna and Cox’Bazar districts. In Morelganj and Sharankhola upazilas, important shrimp producing areas, some 5 000 shrimp enclosures were destroyed. In Bagerhat district some 90 percent of the shrimp enclosures (gher), along the Baleshwar River, were destroyed and flushed by tidal waves.
At national level, the crop damage due to Cyclone Sidr follows severe floods in July and August that affected some 10 million people and resulted in the loss of large area of the “aus” paddy crop (20 percent of the annual production) being harvested, and of the “aman” crop being planted. Overall, it was estimated that some 13 percent of the total area with paddy was compromised by the floods. Prospects for this year’s paddy crop have deteriorated further and the 2007aggregate rice production could decline significantly from the good level of 2006.
Most of the population affected by the cyclone is critically dependent on agriculture for its living and many are vulnerable to food insecurity. Therefore, the severe damage to the agriculture sector will have a negative impact on their livelihood and it is anticipated to result in a deterioration of their prospective food security situation.
Food markets in the affected area are generally functional. But, many small shops selling food in the worst affected areas have collapsed, or are severely damaged due to the strong winds and falling trees associated with the storm. The food prices were already high before the cyclone arrived due to high international cereal prices and earlier floods related losses.
So far, the Ministry of Food and Disaster Management of Bangladesh has allocated more than 10 000 tonnes of rice to the affected districts. The World Food Program is distributing food aid in five worst affected districts and has started an Emergency Operation (EMOP) to provide 71 364 tonnes of food assistance to targeted 2.2 million people over a period of six months. Through Food-for-Work/Cash-for-Work programmes, the EMOP will also contribute to restoring local livelihood systems and strengthening the emergency response capacity of rural communities.
In the agricultural sector, there is urgent need for inputs and vegetable seeds, fishing material (including those for the shrimp aquaculture sector), and feed and vaccination for the livestock. Special attention is also needed for the mangrove forestry sector and for aforestation activities. FAO has established an Emergency coordination and rehabilitation unit within the FAO Representation in Bangladesh to support its relief and rehabilitation operations in the cyclone-affected regions, targeting some 47 000 households through the distribution of fishing nets, seeds, and other agricultural inputs.