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GIEWS Update-detail
FAO/GIEWS Global Watch

22 November 2007

Livelihood of over 6.7 million people adversely affected by Cyclone Sidr in Bangladesh

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 by the Disaster Management Bureau (DMB) by 21 November, estimate 2 982 casualties, 1 724 persons missing and over 6.7 million people adversely affected as a result of the cyclone, with the numbers on the increase. Out of the 64 districts of the country, 30 were hit by the cyclone and report severe damage to housing, with almost 1.2 million houses totally or partially destroyed, roads, bridges, crops, livestock and fishery infrastructure. The worst affected areas are the three districts of Patuakhali, Borguna and Jhalakathi, with a combined affected population of over 1.9 million people. (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 being harvested. Although the full impact of the cyclone on crop production is still unclear, preliminary data from the DMB indicates that some 644 000 hectares of rice and other standing crops were totally or partially damaged. This area represents only about 6.2 percent of the total area cultivated with paddy crop, but at localized level the losses are substantial. In 11 of the worst affected coastal districts, crop losses are estimated at 95 percent of the cultivated area. Livestock losses are reported to be severe with more than 350 000 ruminants (cattle, buffalo, sheep and goats) and large numbers of poultry estimated to have been lost. 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 are destroyed and flushed by tidal waves.

Most of the affected population 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.

On 19 November the Bangladesh Government announced it welcomes all possible assistance for the cyclone victims and for post-cyclone rehabilitation. Distribution of food and non food emergency assistance is already underway by the government international and non-governmental organizations. Official reports indicate that 90 percent of the cyclone affected areas have been reached. In areas still inaccessible, helicopters of the armed forces are airdropping WFP fortified biscuits.

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 lost 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 comprised by the floods. Prospects for this year’s paddy crop have deteriorated further and the aggregate 2007 rice production could decline significantly from the good level of 2006 Assessments of the damage to the agricultural sector are ongoing, but a comprehensive evaluation is not yet available. UN Agencies are continuing their assistance in damage assessment and relief. The priority at this stage is to provide for shelter, food, water and medical care to the hurricane affected people, as well as to re-establish basic services and infrastructure. In the agricultural sector, there is urgent need for inputs and vegetable seeds, fishing material (including 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.