Living in Despair.

June 12, 2016

The agonizing story of a village bulldozed by cyclone Roanu in coastal Bangladesh.


Little Lifa Akhter, a first grader at the local government primary school in Chachra village of Tajumuddin in the coastal district of Bhola, is too young to know exactly what had happened a couple of weeks ago.


Little Shifa Akhter stands in front of what used to be their house before cyclone Roanu swept the Chachra village in Tamajuddin upazila of Bhola district.


The only thing that matters to her is that there has been a sudden vacation and her school, where she loves going to every day with her friends, is closed.

ÔÇ£One morning there was a big storm. All my books, copies and school uniform are gone,ÔÇØ said little Lifa.

Tropical storm Roanu that brought with it strong winds, heavy rain, landslide and tidal surge, crossed over BangladeshÔÇÖs coast during the evening of May 20 and the afternoon of May 21.Eight districts, including Bhola, along the coast of Bangladesh were severely affected. More than 200,000 people were rendered homeless and 75,000 houses were smashed.

For Chachra, the village were Lifa leaves with her family, strong winds of up to 90km per hour, wreaked the biggest havoc.

ÔÇ£It looks as if the entire area has been flattened by a bulldozer. None of the tin or thatch-roofed houses in the area are standing,ÔÇØ said Ziaul H Himel, a member of the National Disaster Response Team (NDRT) of Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) who is currently stationed in the district.


The big tree, uprooted by cyclone Roanu, has alone destroyed several houses in the Chachra village in Tamajuddin upazila of Bhola district.


Just like hundreds of other houses in Chachra, LifaÔÇÖshouse too was destroyed by a tree uprooted by Roanu. Currently, just a tarpaulin from BDRCS separates the six-member family from the sky.

A few days after the storm, each of the affected families in the village got Tk3,000 as cash for food from BDRCS and 10 kilograms of rice from the local union council. But the supplies are fast running out ÔÇô whatever they got was good enough for just 10 days.

ÔÇ£I donÔÇÖt know what I will do after the relief materials are finished,ÔÇØ said ShifaÔÇÖs father Md Ayub, 35, who ferries kitchen utensils for a living.



Look of despair in the eyes of day labourer Lokman, who has not only lost his house to cyclone Roanu but also his means of living.

ÔÇ£I used to earn around Tk300-350 per day. My six-member family lived on that income. I donÔÇÖt have any savings. The storm destroyed my stock. Moreover, there is nobody left in the village who can buy anything,ÔÇØ Ayub said.

The only land the family owns is that of their homestead. So, agriculture is not an option for them.

Before Roanu hit, Md Lokman, 50, was one of AyubÔÇÖs customers. The toll on his family is much bigger than that of Ayub ÔÇô a windfall tree has not only destroyed his house but also killed his wife.

ÔÇ£If the storm hit during nighttime, we would have gone to the cyclone shelter. But because it came during day, we stayed back. ThatÔÇÖs why my wife got killed when the tree fell on our house,ÔÇØ said Lokman, weeping.

He was a day labourer who worked at other peopleÔÇÖs crop fields. Roanu has destroyed in the crops in the fields as well. So, Lokman is now totally out of work. He too, along with his family of five, has been living on the fast-depleting supplies given by BDRCS and the local union council.

He has sent his 17-year-old 10th grader eldest son Sohel and 11-year-old only daughter Ruma, a fourth grader, to a relativeÔÇÖs house in Chittagong after the storm.

In rural Bangladesh, many girls are married off at the age of 11. They donÔÇÖt have any place of their own to live, so Lokman and his 8-year-old youngest son Rakib, along with several other homeless families from the village, are now living in one of the very few concrete houses that survived the atrocities of Roanu. Lokman thought it was not safe for his daughter to stay like that.

Just like families of little Shifa and Lokman, there are thousands of other families in the coastal districts of Bangladesh who have a grim near future ahead.

Unless they are given immediate support in the form of shelter, cash for food, and a boost for livelihood, many of these families will be pushed to the edge of oblivion.

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