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Red Cross Says More Than One Million People in Bangladesh Need Shelter


Five weeks after a killer cyclone hit Bangladesh, more than one million people live without adequate shelter. As Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi, the cyclone devastated coastal villages and killed more than 3,000 people.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says hundreds of thousands of families in Bangladesh need basic shelter to protect them from the approaching winter.

The federation says this "alarming" assessment has been made by more than 30 agencies that are helping the survivors of last month's cyclone rebuild their homes.

Sanjay Mukherjee in Dhaka represents these agencies. He says most of the people who lost their homes are living in shelters built with material reclaimed from fallen houses.

"Out of the debris they have constructed some shelters, broken wood pieces, bamboos, some plastic sheets, thatch, tin, whatever they grabbed," he said. "This is not adequate. They want protection from the climate, they want some warm clothes, they want some security, privacy."

The storm hit the country's southwest coast on November 15 and flattened dozens of villages. The country escaped the massive loss of life it has suffered in previous such disasters, but millions of people lost livelihoods and homes.

The government estimates that more than one and a half million homes were damaged or destroyed.

It has appealed for $2 billion to rebuild the ravaged coast. Overseas donors and aid agencies have pledged less than one quarter of that amount - $470 million so far.

Aid agencies say much of this money has been pledged for long-term rehabilitation of the survivors, and are calling for more funds to address immediate needs.

Sanjay Mukherjee says housing needs immediate attention.

"Housing should be one of the top priorities, because it is in the center," he said. "It relates to lot of other things. Unless and until they have secure housing, they cannot think of anything else."

Bangladesh is a low-lying country prone to storms and cyclones. The November 15 cyclone killed more than 3,000 people, and was the deadliest to hit the country since 1991, when a massive cyclone killed more than 140,000.