Monday, November 19, 2007

Bangladesh under flood

The horror that Cyclone Sidr created in Bangladesh is set to get worse, as the death toll is expected to pass 5,000. The Bangladeshi Red Crescent Society has already retrieved 3,000 bodies, and estimates that the toll could reach 10,000.

Villages have been flattened, survivors are traumatised, and the threat of water-borne diseases rises as both animal corpses and human bodies remain in flood waters. The problem of getting emergency relief and aid to the survivors continues, especially along the southern coast, where the category 4 cyclone hit. It has been described as 'catastrophic'.

But I'm sure you already know all that. Beyond this information from online news sources, however, I couldn't get much more. There was the usual about how the international community is pledging millions in aid and emergency relief, and how this is being called a 'calamity'. I wanted to know more about how the Bangladeshis are facing this tragedy, and what they are saying needs to be done.

So, I went in search of blogs and reports from Bangladeshis – either in Bangladesh or amongst the diaspora. Of course, the electricity supply in Dakha is unreliable, and pretty much out of action in the rest of Bangladesh, so this understandably makes new blog reports a little thin.

I did, however, find a blog that features posts by Bangladeshi women learning new skills – including blogging! – through the Nari Jibon Project. It also has some updates on the cyclone from the project's US supporter, Kathryn Ward. She hopes that the electricity will be back on within a week, but if it's not, she intends to get the women's stories of the cyclone over the phone from the US and post them on the blog. So, there should be more coming up there in the next week.

There's more news and posts via the blog aggregator, Global Voices, which promotes blogs from across the world, especially Asian, African, Latin American, Eastern European and Pacific voices. (This is a welcome change from the blogs I usually read. 'The world is talking', as they say, 'Are you listening?' )

Blogger Rezwan, originally from Bangladesh, has aggregated a bunch of news and posts on Cyclone Sidr for Global Voices, including information on how Bangladeshi bloggers followed the cyclone as it hit the coast. There are more updates at Rezwan's blog, The 3rd world view.

If you don't want to stand by helplessly, Rezwan has some good insights into the international aid needs for cyclone-hit Bangladesh.

Medicins Sans Frontieres Australia have not yet announced a specific appeal for Bangladesh, but if you're looking for a reputable emergency relief and aid agency that puts most of its donations into helping those in need, rather than in advertising or admin, then I'd suggest supporting their work.

The same goes for Oxfam Australia, who have launched a specific Bangladesh appeal, and are providing information on what they're doing there.

[Satellite image of Cyclone Sidr about to hit Bangladesh from here]

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