Disaster-resilient shelters providing refuge in Bangladesh

During the recent passage of Cyclone Roanu in Bangladesh, IMC-built shelters provided refuge for remote communities.

Tuesday 28 June 2016, Richard Langford-Johnson

On 21 and 22 May, Cyclone Roanu passed across the northern part of the Bay of Bengal. It moved south until meeting landfall south of the Chittagong district of southeast Bangladesh.

Newspapers indicate that over half a million people fled their homes, and 24 people were tragically killed by falling homes and trees.

Many areas were severely flooded, with many properties lost and roads cut off by fallen trees. Communications were difficult, and electricity was often limited in towns and remote areas. Batteries for phones and computers ran out, and generator fuel was in short supply.

Normally the residents of Bhola Island, the largest in Bangladesh, are severely affected by these events. Fortunately, cyclone shelters that IMC has been building to protect citizens (and their cattle) in times of emergencies, were ready for handover to local communities.

Following Government advice to the communities to seek shelter anywhere from a few dozen to 500 people were able to make use of the shelters until the storm passed.

roanu 1
Residents affected by Cyclone Roanu in May this year

Successes in uniquely challenging circumstances

A severe storm or Cyclone like Roanu, generally hits Bangladesh at least once a year. At the same time, changes in the pathways of rivers bring separate challenges to communities and the construction of resilient infrastructure.

IMC was in fact forced to abandon construction of a shelter that began five kilometres from river – but due to weather conditions – the river moved to such an extent that the shelter site was now only 300 metres away from the water.

Overall, these are very remote areas of Bangladesh, divided by rivers with high risk of flooding and subject to severe weather events. Our project area, running along the country’s southern coastal belt, is massive, and transport and implementation is made particularly difficult by these conditions.

However, despite these challenges, when the infrastructure is shown to be successful like it was recently, it allows local communities to be more resilient in the future.

The Fael Khair programme aims to establish roughly 170 cyclone shelters in southern Bangladesh to protect hundreds of thousands of citizens and their cattle during times of emergency. The programme is funded through the Islamic Development Bank and implemented by IMC Worldwide.

 

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