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Monday, November 19, 2007
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Over $25m pledged in international help

Donor nations and agencies have pledged over US$ 25 million in assistance to help Bangladesh meet the requirements rising in the aftermath of Cyclone Sidr. This assurance for help has come before the government has made any formal appeal for international assistance.

The donor nations and agencies have also made further commitments to provide short and long term assistance to cyclone victims.

Douglas Broderick, representative of World Food Program (WFP), after a meeting with Food And Disaster Management Ministry said that the donor nations have started their own assessment with the help of five teams already visiting the cyclone-affected areas.

Broderick, while speaking to journalists after the meeting, said that they already have a primary picture of what kind of help is needed immediately. The donor nations have also urged the Bangladesh government to appeal for help from the international community.

The WFP representative also congratulated the Bangladesh government for their timely weather forecast, which helped save many lives.

Ayub Mia, acting secretary of the Food And Disaster Management Ministry, said that the donor nation and agency representatives will hold further talks with government representatives on Thursday to assess what steps are to be taken next.

He said that a total of 42 representatives from different donor nations along with UN alliances attended the meeting yesterday. In addition to monetary help, they have also committed to provide rice, blanket, tent and other infrastructure items.

When asked whether the government would appeal for international help to combat the situation, the acting secretary for the ministry said that such a decision depended on higher officials in the government.

A 12-member team of the World Food Programme is already visiting cyclone-affected areas. Broderick said that he was awaiting an assessment report from his team visiting remote areas to sketch out further short term and long term assistance plans. He also added that food management, medical support and temporary shelter would be given top priority in cyclone rehabilitation programmes.

WFP is coordinating the cyclone rehabilitation programme on be half of international agencies in Bangladesh.

At the meeting yesterday the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) have promised US$ 7m and US$ 6.8m financial grants respectively. The United States have promised US$ 2.1m, UK US $5m, and a UK based NGO US$ 4m. Spain has committed to provide 5000 Euro.

Japan has committed to assist Bangladesh in three phases. In the first phase, within the next week, Japan will provide tents, blankets, and clothing for the cyclone-affected areas. It will also provide food assistance. In its third phase, Japan will work with the cyclone rehabilitation programme.

World Food Program (WFP) is to provide 40 thousands metric tonnes of rice, and 428 metric tonnes of high protein biscuits to cyclone victims immediately while the US will provide 35 metric tonnes of rice. The US army has also offered assistance to the Bangladesh army for rehabilitation efforts, if required.

Meanwhile the government has started its vulnerable group feeding (VGF) programme in the southern districts. Food and Disaster management-acting secretary Ayub Mia said that he has informed the donor nations and agencies that informed the donors that in the changed scenario, the government is planning to increase the number of VGF cards and also increase per head allocation under VGF programme.

The government may consider allocating 20kg rice per person under VGF programme instead of existing 10kg, he said.

According to the Food and Disaster Management Ministry a total of 32 lakh people have been badly affected by cyclone Sidr. Crops on 23,19,029 acres of land have been damaged completely while crops on another 738,332 acres have been partially destroyed.

The cyclone has destroyed at least 2,73,233 houses while another 6,15,772 have been damaged to some extent or the other.

UNB adds: The European Union (EU) Ambassador Stefan Frowein yesterday said enough money would be made available by donors to deal with the emergency and rehabilitation afterwards of the people affected by cyclone Sidr.

"We are very sure that enough money will be made available for immediate response to emergency needs," he told a press briefing at the European Commission's Dhaka office.

"Once you have helped the victims, the next question is how we can get them back to their houses, what about their livestock and standing crops," the ambassador said.

He said, "We are convinced that the availability of donors and us (the EU) will help the situation. And, it will cover the cost. There will be enough money made available and help will be coming in from the outside world as is needed."

Frowein, however, said that after dealing with the emergency situation it would take some time for the fund to deal with medium and long-term plans.

Asked if the EU will help in construction of more cyclone shelters, he said it is for Bangladesh to decide if they want to build more shelters and if they go for it, the donors will be happy to help.

Mentioning the EU's emergency release of 1.5 million euro in fast-track aid to help the most vulnerable, the ambassador said their representative termed the "rapid response person" is now in the affected areas to assess the situation and they will finalise their assessment by evening today.

Expressing sympathy for the victims, Frowein said the damage is extensive and some villages are completely destroyed.

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