OCHA Situation Report No. 1
Bangladesh - Cold Wave
14 January 2003
Click here for the MAP: India, Bangladesh and Nepal Cold Wave.
The following information was provided by the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh, the IFRC Delegation in Bangladesh, as well as media reports.
I. SITUATION AND DAMAGE
1. The month-long cold spell affecting Bangladesh, northern India and Nepal continues to claim lives despite a rise in temperatures and reduced fog in some regions. Weather officials warn that a fresh spell of cold weather can be expected after 16 January 2003.
2. The unofficial death toll from cold and cold-related illnesses has reportedly reached between 450 and 550 in Bangladesh alone over the past 3 days, mainly in the north-western districts and the south-eastern Barisal division. Most affected are vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly and homeless. Livelihoods especially of day labourers in rural areas are endangered, as severe temperatures and dense fog over the past weeks, as well as a lack of winter clothing, have made it impossible for them to go out for work.
3. According to agricultural experts, the lack of sunlight combined with the low temperatures is threatening Bangladesh's essential crops such as rice, as well as winter vegetables.
4. With 70 more people reported dead over the last 48 hours in India, the unofficial number of victims of the cold wave there now exceeds 500. The two most affected states are Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. In the latter state, more than 1,000cattle have reportedly died in the cold. The Relief Department in Bihar has released a sum of 1.1 million Indian Rupees (USD 22,960) for the purpose of lighting campfires to warm affected people. The Indian Red Cross state branch in Bihar has distributed 500 blankets and thousands of items of clothing. It is in the course of distributing an additional 2,000 blankets to street dwellers in the state capital Patna.
5. In neighbouring Nepal, at least 48 people have died since the onset of the cold wave, 7 of them in the last 24 hours. A Ministry of Agriculture official said that agricultural products such as oranges, wheat and potatoes have been damaged by the weather conditions.
II. NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE
6. The Government of Bangladesh has not requested international assistance. According to the media, the Bangladesh Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief said that it has allocated 40,000 blankets to be distributed. Following an appeal made by Prime Minister Zia to wealthy families and business groups to donate blankets and winter clothing for the poor, thousands of items were provided to the Prime Minister's Relief Fund.
7. The UNICEF Staff Association Bangladesh is currently collecting clothes for street children, poor women and the elderly in Dhaka City, to be distributed.
8. On 11 January 2003, an emergency meeting was held by the Disaster Forum (DF), an NGO network. The DF highlighted the requirements of vulnerable groups, as well as stressing the need for coordination among NGOs in catering for them.According to the DF, national and international aid agencies have taken individual initiatives to distribute relief items. These include more than 65,000 blankets, 8,500 shawls, 1,300 T-shirts, and 1,300 caps. In addition to the above, the national NGO Chinnomukul Bangladesh-Kurigram has distributed 5,000 items of clothing for children, 5,000 sandals and 5,000 packets of vegetable seeds.
9. The IFRC and the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society are preparing to distribute 18,000 items of children's clothing, donated by a garment company. In particular, they have agreed to be in charge of distribution to children imprisoned in jails and other institutions.
10. Members of the international alliance Action by Churches Together (ACT) met on 12 January to coordinate their emergency response. Overall, they have already distributed 550 sarees, 550 lunghis, 2,500 children's garments, 2,800 blankets and 130 cartons of high protein biscuits. They are planning to supply a further 10,000 blankets, 1,000 sarees, 3,000 items of children's clothes and 350 cartons of high protein biscuits. ACT is planning to prepare a joint appeal for USD 50,000.
11. Immediate needs are additional blankets and warm clothing.
12. OCHA is in close contact with the UN Resident Coordinator in Dhaka and will revert with further information as appropriate.
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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