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Fears for lives of the Rohingya and other vulnerable populations, as monsoon rains from Cyclone Amphan approach Bangladesh

By Practical Action On 19.05.2020 CoronavirusDisasterPress release

A powerful cyclone in the Bay of Bengal could bring potential destruction and danger to life in Bangladeshi communities vulnerable to flooding and storm surges, according to staff working there.

Cyclone Amphan will bring strong winds and heavy rainfall, causing dangerous flooding across Bangladesh, where Practical Action works as part of Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance to build community resilience in one of the world’s most flood-prone countries.


This morning, Practical Action issued cyclone alert messages to more than 17,000 household in coastal areas. The message contains critical information related to safety measures, importance of safe distancing and other simple-to-follow advice. A specialist team has been stood up to plan for reconstruction and rehabilitation of water and sanitation facilities, agriculture and aquaculture in medium and long term.


There are also concerns for places like Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh where hundreds of thousands of Rohinyga have been forced to shelter in camps amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Rohingya refugee camp, Bangladesh

The people living here are also at risk of coronavirus because it is hard to respect physical distancing when forced to live shoulder to shoulder. So far at least one case of coronavirus has been confirmed in the camps. In the camps at Cox’s Bazar, Practical Action has a  presence working with the community on waste management and sanitation.


As a member of ZFRA, Practical Action is calling for the UN’s $6.64 billion COVID-19 appeal to be fully-funded to help countries fight the onslaught of coronavirus, but also to help build community resilience to natural hazards, such as storms that can lead to flooding.


The UN appeal is only 15 per cent funded, and according to disaster risk reduction expert Ms Afsari Begum from Practical Action this could spell disaster for people in the Bangladesh camps and other parts of the country prone to natural hazards, especially if coronavirus takes hold.


“The monsoon rains can be destructive and lead to flooding. Floods cause people to gather on higher ground and to seek safety, packed tightly together, in flood evacuation shelters and community centres, such as mosques. If that was to happen in crowded communities and camps in Bangladesh it could rapidly accelerate the spread of coronavirus.


That’s why it’s essential that funds from the UN COVID-19 appeal also help vulnerable communities to limit their risk to natural hazards, such as floods and storms”, said Ms Begum.”


According to ZFRA, floods affect more people than any other natural hazard on the planet and wrack up hundreds of billions of dollars in mainly uninsurable losses.


Floods can lead to a loss of housing, water-borne, vector-borne, communicable disease outbreaks and infections, while damaging and disrupting access to critical infrastructure, such as hospitals and clinics.

Mr Hossain Ishrath Adib, Head of Programme Development, Practical Action Bangladesh.

Mr Hossain Ishrath Adib, Head of Programme Development, Practical Action Bangladesh


“While it is not possible to prevent the monsoon rains, it is possible to limit the damage they cause to vulnerable communities, such as the Rohingya in Bangladesh. Proactively planning for flooding during the time of coronavirus will help prevent loss of life as well as damage to services such as health clinics and mosques,” said Mr Hossain Ishrath Adib, Head of Programme Development, Practical Action Bangladesh.

“We will always need funding to respond to unforeseen humanitarian disasters, but there is so much we can be doing now to ensure natural hazards do not become humanitarian catastrophes, that’s why Practical Action’s work is focused on building resilience that protects.” Said Mr Adib.

Researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, also a member of ZFRA, have calculated that for every $1 invested in flood resilience preventing natural hazards from becoming humanitarian disasters, we save on average $5 in future losses.


“Unfortunately, in the last few decades, too little has been spent on mitigating risk posed by natural hazards.  Estimates of donor spending is that as little as 0.4 percent of the total international aid investment has been invested on disaster risk reduction,” said Ann Vaughan of Mercy Corps and Advocacy Workstream Lead for ZFRA.


The Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance believes that no-one should be left behind or forgotten because of the coronavirus global health crisis, that it is absolutely vital that developing countries are given the support needed to build resilience to the virus and also to natural hazards.


For interviews call Andrew Heath at Practical Action +44 7800 884267


Notes to editor
The Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance finds practical ways to helps save lives by strengthening community resilience to floods globally. Established in 2013, the alliance is now comprised of nine members – Zurich Insurance Group working with the civil society and humanitarian organizations Concern Worldwide, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Mercy CorpsPlan International and Practical Action as well as research partners the International Institute for Applied Systems and Analysis (IIASA), the London School of Economics (LSE) and the Institute for Social and Environmental Transition-International (ISET). Funding for our alliance partners, with the exception of Zurich Insurance Group, is provided by the Zurich Foundation.