Cold weather is being blamed for hundreds of deaths in Bangladesh, India and Nepal. Temperatures have fallen below zero as biting winds sweep down from the Himalayas and heavy fog hangs over much of the region. Each year, cold weather at this time of year claims casualties in a region where millions live without power, shelter or warm clothing.
A government official from Uttar Pradesh reports, 'Most of the people who died were pavement dwellers who sleep under trees or under the open skies. Often, they cannot afford any woollens.'
In response to this exceptional emergency The Salvation Army is distributing sweaters and warm clothing. Sweaters and other woollen items are manufactured in our own workshop, known as 'Sally Ann'. Five thousand sweaters, blankets and other items of warm clothing are heading for Dinajpur District in the north-west of the country. The warm clothing is being shipped by road and distributed from there to local Christian organisations working in the north-west.
Working in partnership with the Lamb Christian Hospital, The Salvation Army will give urgent assistance to 2,000 people located in poor rural Santal and Urao tribal communities. The remainder of the clothing will be distributed by other Christian organisations working in the north-west of the country. These include the Santal Norwegian Mission (Bangladesh Northern Evangelical Lutheran Church), Supoth (Bangladesh Lutheran Church), and the Danish Bangladesh Leprosy Mission, who are all working in the north-west, covering seven districts of the country.
Lieut-Colonel Ethne Flintoff, leader of The Salvation Army in Bangladesh, reports that the country is experiencing the coldest weather in living memory. 'Many people are dying of the cold,' she says. 'They are desperately looking for warm garments. We can trust our Christian partners to distribute the garments in their areas of work. We are delighted to work with them to help at this time of emergency.'
Financial assistance has been requested and US$10,000 has been immediately advanced by the International Emergency Services office in London to facilitate this response.
Major Cedric Hills
International Emergency Services Coordinator