Ensure safe housing for Sidr-affected people
Oxfam International urged the government and the international community to implement a comprehensive plan to ensure safe and adequate housing for the people affected by the cyclone Sidr last year.
"With time running out before the start of the monsoon rains, a particularly urgent need is the launch of a major awareness raising campaign on safer building techniques," said a study report of Oxfam International released yesterday.
The launching of the report styled 'Rethinking disasters: Why death and destruction is not nature's fault but human failure' was jointly organised by Oxfam GB, Bangladesh and the Department of Geography & Environment of Dhaka University at Cirdap auditorium in the capital.
Prof Dr AQM Mahbub presented the overview of the report.
Most of the families who are now rebuilding their homes following the cyclone Sidr have not received any support and training to make them more resilient to the next cyclone or storm surge, the report noted.
"What is more worrying is the fact that more than 3.2 lakh families do not have the means to rebuild at all without external assistance and so far only one-fifth of them have been promised aid," it said.
The report lauded the risk reduction measures taken by the government such as creation of early warning system, cyclone and flood shelter centers and the raising of homesteads, which saved thousands of lives and livelihoods.
But disaster risk reduction requires more attention and follow-up beyond times of emergency, it added.
Stating that South Asia loses up to six percent of its GDP to disasters annually, the Oxfam report said rich countries of the world should provide at least 0.7 percent of their gross national income in international aid to improve public education and health and water sanitation systems.
Speaking at the launching ceremony, Oxfam Bangladesh Country Programme Manager Heather Blackwell said, "Each new disaster deepens poor people's vulnerabilities and slows development."
The right policies and preparations can save lives and money, she said, adding that experiences show that preparedness costs a fraction of what a disaster response can cost.
Speaking as the chief guest, Food and Disaster Management Adviser Dr AMM Shawkat Ali said over five lakh people in the Sidr-affected southwestern region have received house building grants.
"We are giving priority to building houses for those who did not have any houses," he said, adding that the country needs to prepare a roadmap involving experts in this field to reduce disaster risks.
Disaster Management Bureau Director General KH Masud Sidiqui said the Executive Committee of National Economic Council in 2007 passed a resolution that all development plans should include disaster management issue.
The government, which has partnerships with 60 local and international NGOs, has also trained 20,000 officials on disaster management, he said.
The disaster management ministry has finalised designs of 1400 new multipurpose cyclone shelters and low-cost housing and sent it to the planning ministry for approval, he added.
Bangladesh Economic Association President Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad said experts have predicted that the climate change will cause rise in sea level, which will result in frequent and intensive floods or storms in this part of the world.
Preparedness can reduce the impacts of such disasters, he said, adding that the government in collaboration with other national and international organisations should create a large fund to minimise the impacts of natural calamities.
He also said the local government institutions, which can play the most important role in alerting the communities to the disasters, should be strengthened with resources and logistics.
Oxfam GB's Programme Manager Farid Hasan Ahmed also spoke.