As Christian Aid partner organisations reach the districts affected by Cyclone Fani the true scale of the loss and destruction is becoming clear.
Cyclone Fani, one of the strongest storms to hit the Indian subcontinent in decades, made landfall near Puri, India, at 8am on Friday 3 May, with winds gusting at more than 190kmh.
Due to good disaster preparedness, the loss of lives has been low, however the impact in terms of loss of homes and livelihoods has been enormous.
Madara Hettiarachchi, Christian Aid’s Head of Humanitarian Programmes, said:
“In Odisha, India, 10 million people have been affected. Over 1.2 million people have been evacuated to emergency shelters. More than 40 people have been confirmed dead. Christian Aid is airlifting shelter items such as tarpaulins, bedsheets, ropes, ground mats and water filters to those in affected villages and cyclone shelters.
“We are prioritising the most marginalised groups, such as Dalits, women, girls, children and people with disabilities, who face discrimination and security risks. We have partner organisations working in the districts of Puri and Cuttack. Our partners are finding clear indications of discrimination between higher and lower caste people in the camps and shelters, which is a huge concern.
“The Indian government is providing food and water to people in formal shelters, but Christian Aid partners on the ground have found that this is not enough, and that children are only receiving biscuits in some camps. Christian Aid is calling on the Indian government to stop discriminating between victims of Cyclone Fani based on caste.”
Shivani Rana, Emergency Program Officer, India added: “The Cyclone was very damaging in both rural and urban areas of Odisha, especially the districts of Puri, Cuttack, Jagatsinghpur and Bhubaneshwar. Road and telecom communications have been badly disrupted. People have lost their homes as most of the rural communities live in mud houses with thatched and asbestos roofs.
“All the standing and stored crops have been lost, devastating livelihoods. Christian Aid is on the ground and already helping 500 families. But people are in more need of temporary shelters, drinking water and food, because it is the poorest of the poor that have been worst affected by this disaster.”
In Bangladesh, Christian Aid has prepositioned 268 tarpaulin and chlorine tablets for safe drinking water, and is responding with cash grants for shelter repair, floor mats, hygiene and dignity kits, as well as providing food and safe drinking water.
Shahana Hayat, Humanitarian Programme Manager in Bangladesh, said:
“Intervention to improve basic services and, in the coming months, the self-reliance of people affected by the Cyclone, is vital to ensure no one is left behind.”
To minimise loss of life, prevent disease outbreaks, and ensure the safety and dignity of those affected in Odisha, West Bengal, and coastal districts of Bangladesh, Christian Aid is calling for:
– The Indian and Bangladeshi governments to deliver priority assistance to marginalised communities and particularly vulnerable groups – including Dalits, women, children, the elderly, people with disabilities, and religious minorities – and provide specialised assistance and safe spaces for women and girls.
– Rapid investment in emergency water, hygiene, and sanitation infrastructure and supplies, shelter, and emergency food assistance.
Like other recent Indian Ocean cyclones, Cyclone Fani has shown the vulnerability of low-lying areas to flooding, a risk that will only increase as climate change continues to influence global weather patterns and lead to higher sea levels. The poorest people in countries like India and Bangladesh cannot be left alone to face these increasing risks. As well as increased international support to build the resilience of vulnerable communities affected by Cyclone Fani, global action on climate change is urgently needed, including rapid and radical cuts in global carbon emissions.
Christian Aid has helped people in India and Bangladesh to prepare for disasters over several years but is appealing for urgent support to respond to the scale of the need.
Photo: Abir Abdullah/ Christian Aid