OCHA Situation Report No. 1
Bangladesh - Cold Wave
9 January 2003
The following information was provided by the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh, the World Food Programme, the IFRC Delegation in Bangladesh, OXFAM, as well as media reports.
I. SITUATION AND DAMAGE
1. Since mid December 2002, a severe cold spell has swept over Bangladesh, the most severely affected country, northern India and Nepal. The Bangladesh meteorological department forecasts another cold front later in the month.
2. The cold wave has affected an estimated population of 50,000 in the northern and north-western districts of Bangladesh. No official death toll has been released but according to the latest news reports, almost 300 people have been killed. Impoverished villagers, infants and elderly people have been the first victims of the cold. The IFRC Delegation in Bangladesh reports that 50 people have died during the past 48 hours. The cold wave has been worsened by thick fog which has kept daytime temperatures very low, causing massive damage to agriculture.
3. The cold wave has also claimed about 100 lives in India according to media reports. Most of the victims are homeless pavement dwellers and beggars. The authorities in the worst hit areas of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar states have been distributing blankets and lighting bonfires on street corners to keep people warm. Schools and government buildings are being used as shelters for the homeless.
4. In Nepal, two people were reported dead by the police in the Mideast Tarai region, Mahottari District. A sudden rise in the number of patients suffering from flu, pneumonia and scabies has been reported in the district hospital and health centres.
II. NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE
5. The Government of Bangladesh has not requested international assistance but has appealed to all humanitarian organisations in the country to assist the population by distributing blankets and warm clothing to the most needy, children and elderly.
6. The Government of Bangladesh has distributed 5,000 blankets from its disaster emergency stocks.
7. On 9 January 2003, WFP chaired an inter-agency emergency meeting with the Government, UNDP, the IFRC, as well as international and national NGOs to discuss the situation and coordinate the ongoing relief operations.
8. WFP and IFRC are assisting some 5,500 vulnerable families by distributing one blanket and two packets of high-protein biscuits (1 kilogram) to each of them. IFRC has advanced CHF 50,000 (USD 36,000) from its disaster relief emergency fund for the purchase of the blankets. To date, 3,700 blankets have been distributed and another 1,800 will be released on 10 January 2003. In addition 20,000 items of warm children's clothing worth USD 75,000, donated by the German Consulate in Dhaka, will also be distributed in the coming days.
9. Care International distributed 15,000 blankets.
10. World Vision Bangladesh distributed 2,500 blankets to breastfeeding mothers, female-headed households and other vulnerable people living in Joypuhat, Bogra, Sariakandi and Tarash districts, under the WV Bangladesh Disaster Management Sector's Food Security Enhancement Initiative (FSEI) project, funded by USAID.
11. OXFAM is planning to distribute through its partner agencies 10,000 to 12,000 winter clothes by next week.
12. The Rangpur Dinajpur Regional Service (RDRS), a regional NGO active in the northern districts, has been distributing blankets to the inhabitants of the area.
13. This situation report, together with information on other ongoing emergencies, is available on the OCHA Website at http://www.reliefweb.int
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