A True Story of Disaster Preparedness
It has been a couple of weeks since Tropical Storm Mahasen made landfall over Potkakhali, a village in the Barguna district of southern Bangladesh. Compared with the death and destruction caused by Cyclone Sidr in 2007, which killed more than 3,500 people, the fury of this cyclone has been less devastating. In fact, one villager has even used the word “kind” when referring to Mahasen.
Mahasen has left a trail of destruction. Heavy rainfall and 145mph winds are responsible for the damage and destruction to schools and more than 45,000 homes. In addition, over 316,295 acres of agricultural land are now submerged under water. Despite all of the destruction, there were only 45 storm-related deaths.
A Crash Course in Disaster Management
Once the Plan team had reached Potkakhali, they were welcomed by 30 children from Mim Abason, a local children’s group. The children wanted to talk to the team about their disaster preparedness roles during the storm.
Leading the group was 17-year-old Mukta and 14-year-old Mohammed. While one may not be able to prevent a disaster, these children are proof that disaster risks can be reduced.
The children spoke with a sense of confidence and purpose and shared how they have been raising awareness of the importance of disaster preparedness. A combination of folk songs, skits, and mock drills help children understand how to respond to early warnings. First aid training also helps children respond to emergency situations.
As one of their songs goes, “One flag is for cyclones that are less intense. Two flags are for category 4-6 cyclones and three flags is a signal to run to the cyclone shelter.”
Community participation in disaster preparedness trainings has educated the community on identifying, mapping out, and addressing the potential risks which may exist within their villages. Moreover, children and adults have learned about the importance of evacuating to shelters. During Mahasen, these lessons where particularly valuable in making 1 million people evacuate their homes to seek refuge at their local cyclone shelters.
Plan and the South Asia Partnership have been supporting disaster preparedness efforts in Potkakhali since 2011, with funding from the European Commission’s Humanitarian Office. Tropical Storm Mahasen gave the communities the chance to put what they had learned into action.
Seeking Shelter from the Storm
When the storm warning came, Mukta and her friends moved to the nearby shelter.
“We were there for two days and were listening to the radio,” she says. “We were also playing and singing.”
Plan Distributes Aid to the Barguna District
Plan is currently distributing packages of dry-food and non-food items to 1,300 of the most vulnerable households in the Barguna district. The households would include: female headed households, families with limited income opportunities, and families with disabled children. Plan aims to reach a total population of 6,500 people.
Information for Sponsors
We will contact sponsors directly if we receive any news about individual sponsored children. If you are planning a visit or have any particular concerns around this issue, please contact our Donor Relations staff at 1-800-556-7918.
Please visit this website for updates as more information becomes available.