Assistance in a time of need | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 29, 2007 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, November 29, 2007

Assistance in a time of need

A few days after Cyclone Sidr slammed into southwestern Bangladesh, I flew over the hardest hit areas to survey the devastation. I saw sobering scenes of flooded cropland, flattened homes and rotting cattle carcasses, making clear that assisting the victims would require not just short-term emergency relief but lengthy reconstruction.
We in the US government already are rushing to help Bangladesh in this arduous task and will continue to do so for however long is needed. In devoting considerable material and human resources to the task, I can promise we will not diminish our many other activities in Bangladesh that promote economic and political development. We have spent about $5 billion in development assistance for your country since 1971 and our commitment will not waiver.
Although much of what I saw on my flight was heart-rending, I also saw positive signs of how our two countries have worked side-by-side to mitigate losses from the natural disasters that all too frequently hound Bangladesh. From my airplane window I saw the wave-protection walls and earthen embankments that are a front-line defense against cyclones.
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) helped construct these defenses, and also assisted in building and maintaining the multi-purpose flood and cyclone shelters that housed hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis fleeing Sidr as it roared up from the Bay of Bengal. I have no doubt that these preparedness systems saved countless lives; the death toll from Sidr was horrific enough, but it will be counted in the thousands instead of the tens and hundreds of thousands as in previous cyclones.
For all of the lives saved, there is no denying that the livelihood of millions has been damaged or destroyed. I have been heartened not only by the government of Bangladesh's quick response to the immediate needs of its people but also by the generosity of donor countries and international organisations from around the world, who already have pledged hundreds of millions of dollars.
We were pleased that the US military moved quickly to offer its unique capabilities to augment Bangladesh's capability to provide airlift capacity, emergency supplies, and medical help to disaster victims; it most recently was heavily involved in relief efforts following the 2004 Asia tsunami and 2005 Pakistan earthquake.
The US military also has experience providing emergency relief in Bangladesh. In 1991, it undertook "Operation Sea Angel" during which it delivered water purification equipment, medical aid, and food to more than 1.5 million Bangladeshis. Working in close cooperation with the Bangladesh military, helicopters today are once again taking off from a US navy ship to bring desperately needed aid to cyclone victims in remote areas that cannot be reached by land or sea.
The ship, the USS Kearsarge, will remain off the coast of Bangladesh only as long as there is a need. Yet even after it steams away, the US government will be here engaged in the long, hard work of helping millions of cyclone-affected Bangladeshi rebuild their lives. Bridges, roads, and telecommunication infrastructure were heavily damaged. Shrimp farms, rice paddies, and livestock were destroyed. Schools and health clinics were torn asunder. Already, developmental experts at USAID are working out how best to help rebuild the region, and they will be followed by colleagues and partners who will implement the plans. Again, we will be involved for however long it takes to get the job done.
You can also be sure that we will remain engaged in the many other development activities that are part of our long-term co-operation with the people of Bangladesh. Although food aid accounts for more than half of our development assistance to Bangladesh -- and much of that food aid has gone into relief for past cyclones and floods -- we also make significant investments in a wide array of programs that include education, health and family planning, and income generation.
The United States also will continue to strongly promote the development of democratic institutions and practices, particularly as Bangladesh works to rid its politics of endemic corruption and violence. We are committed to help Bangladesh ensure credible and transparent elections by the end of next year as promised by the caretaker government. Additionally, USAID has just launched a $20 million five-year program to promote good governance and accountability.
As you watch in coming days the television news reports of US relief teams reaching the most destitute Sidr victims with badly needed emergency supplies, please remember that we are here for the long term, in good times and bad, to do what we can to help Bangladesh build a more prosperous society and a sustainable and stable democracy. That was our mission before Sidr hit, and it will be our mission for years to come.

Geeta Pasi is US, Chargé d'Affaires, ad interim, in Bangladesh.

Stay updated on the go with The Daily Star News App. Click here to download it for your device.

Grameenphone and Robi:
Type START <space> BR and send SMS it to 2222

Type START <space> BR and send SMS it to 2225

Leave your comments

Top News

Top News