Relief distributions making headway in Bangladesh; CRS to reach 57,000 people with food supplies this week

November 20, 2007, Balisar, Bangladesh- With more roads open, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and its partner Caritas Bangladeshanticipate reaching 57,700 people (12,500 families) this week with emergency food distributions and relief supplies as the first stage of a long-term recovery effort. CRS has committed $500,000 to the relief effort thus far.

"Thanks to ferries that are up and running and more roads being cleared, we're accessing areas that have yet to receive any aid. Some have been nearly flattened, and people are desperate. They are protecting their families with whatever is available, sleeping under bits of salvaged wood and twisted corrugated iron. Food is critical - whatever they took with them to the cyclone shelter has run out and they have nowhere to turn," said Cassie Dummett, CRS Bangladesh Country Manager in Barisal.

Today, CRS/Caritas started distributing food to 6,000 people in Kalapara. In the devastated areas around Barisal, CRS/Caritas distributions will reach 21,500 people in the next four days, with another 35,000 people set to receive food rations in the Khulnadistrict by the end of the week. Distributions by CRS/Caritas began within the first 36 hours of the cyclone.

"In coastal areas, much of the land has been turned into ponds for prawn farming. People take loans from big businessmen to get started and now they have not only lost their sources of food and income, but are also hugely in debt. Women earned money from selling rice, weaving or fishing. Now they have nothing," said Dummett.

Summary of needs identified:

- Immediate food rations: CRS/Caritas are distributing food to the worst-affected families.

- Tarpaulins/Plastic Sheeting, Blankets, Bed Mats: Thousands of homes are damaged and outdoor conditions are difficult with wet land, heavy winds, and the coming winter months. People are sleeping under whatever they can salvage, or returning to cyclone shelters where conditions are becoming cramped and unhygienic. Fuel and firewood are scarce. People, especially the elderly and children, are exposed to health risks. CRS/Caritas are providing immediate shelter materials and will implement a longer-term shelter rehabilitation / reconstruction program.

- Drinking Water: The coastal areas suffer from chronic drinking water shortages; now the situation is severe. Because of ground water salinity people usually harvest rain water, but their earthenware pots have been smashed. The tidal surge also submerged and contaminated tubewells and sources of clean water. CRS/Caritas is providing water containers, water purification tablets and Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) as part of the immediate response.

- Food Security:Winter crops (vegetables, pulses, peanuts, oil seeds) have been destroyed, resulting in loss of food availability and income. Tidal surges recede quickly but some saline water remains in the fields and will reduce land production. CRS/Caritas will develop a program to support people to become self sufficient again. Options include cash for work programs to rebuild roads and essential community infrastructure; and livelihood recovery programs, to provide people with the tools or equipment needed for them to start earning an income again.

Aid workers available for interviews:

In Barisal: Cassie Dummett, CRS BangladeshCountry Manager: + OR +

In Barisal: Snigdha Chakraborty, CRS Regional Program Manager: +

In Delhi: Caroline Brennan, CRS Regional Information Officer: + /

In the U.S.: John Rivera, CRS Senior Communications Officer: Tel: 443.604.2918 /

How to Help:

Donate via phone: 1-877-HELP-CRS

Donate online:

Write a check: Catholic Relief Services

P.O. Box17090

Baltimore, Maryland21203-7090

Memo portion of check: South Asia Severe Weather Fund

CRS has supported emergency and long-term development programs in Bangladeshsince 1971.Catholic Relief Services is the international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency provides assistance to people in more than 100 countries and territories based on need, regardless of race, nationality or creed.