Tuesday, January 22, 2008
While in El Progreso & San Pedro Sula, I saw many fast food franchises (owned by a large soft drink corporation), two big malls with few customers, a large grocery store & many pulperias (small neighborhood stores) and street markets,
a huge export processing zone (EPZ) and heard of more cases of missing-murdered maquila women in San Pedro Sula (as in Ciudad Juarez, MX and other Central American countries). I bonded with Mr. Nando-driver through listening y singing to radio music (Alejandra Guzman muy bien) in Spanish and English and used my debit card to buy groceries and other items (CAFTA?).
Beyond my two previous posts, I also spent some time walking y jostling through street markets and driving through some streets of these two towns. One afternoon, I spent three hours sitting outside a visitation at a funeral home and where I met a young maquila worker, his six month old son (who ended up on my lap ), his young wife, and gradually his extended family-- y all in Spanish. Like many others, he also wanted to leave the maquila and go El Norte for better pay and work.
At the same time, I experienced-learned some limitations of infrastructures of roads, drinkable water, sewers (some serious flooding my last night in El Progreso), schools, ATMs, poverty, and public safety (bank and store guards with large guns and other security guards with machetes), and my need to work on my Spanish and to retain my improved gringa comprehension. Unlike Bangladesh, no loadshedding, however.
Since my return, I've been recovering-resting, & making my transition to cold Illinois and the start of the spring semester at my university. I am teaching two upper division classes: Globalization & Development and Comparative Race-Ethnic (gender-sexuality....) Relations. Hence I will be sharing some new links, thoughts, and insights from these classes and my students.
Some recent and interesting posts during the past month:
Shawn at Uncultured Project has a a very insightful post-videos-photos on post Cyclone Sidr aid efforts--hard lessons of aid work. I will be using much of his site and videos in my globalization class.
The Nari Jibon bloggers have continued their efforts in English and Bangla. Four bloggers (in English and Bangla) received awards for their efforts and also participated in a video training workshop conducted by Shawn. You can follow this link to the bloggers' names and their prize winning efforts.
Rezwan has an excellent new post on social media-nonprofits-NGOs.
Last but not least, the USA is in the midst of primaries for selecting the next president, and I will leave those thoughts for another post. An interesting exchange on race x gender transpired on Democracy Now between Gloria Steinem and Dr. Melissa Harris-Lacewell about issues raised by Steinem's op-ed article.
And I've been paying attention to las gatas....and their statement on peaceful dreams....
Sunday, December 16, 2007
This resilient country--Bangladesh--has survived despite many natural and human-made challeges.
This past week has been marked by many media pieces on the historical events leading up to and during the Liberation War, the birangana women--raped and tortured by Pakistani forces and collaborators during the war and later ostracised as they lived in their own country. Many articles recalled the intellectual and cultural martyrs murdered by Pakistani forces and their Bangladeshi collaborators in the two days preceding Pakistan's surrender. The
This is also a time of mixed feelings with nearly one year of the Caretaker government (backed by the Military), no elections until end of 2008, the continued sufferings of survivors of Cyclone Sidr as detailed by reports on BBC, who have fallen off the international and local media's radar.
You can read more about these historical events in Mash and his historical documents, and some current perspectives in some profound columns by Rumi and incisive analysis (and good flag graphic) by Rezwan.
Monday, December 10, 2007
At the end of 16 days of blogging to eliminate VAW, today was Int'l Human Rights Day. Today Global Voices has an interesting discussion of the Elders and their new Campaign, Every Human has Rights. BTW, I hope that Nobel Peace Prize winner, Elder, and Grameen Bank President, Dr. Md. Yunus will consider giving Cyclone Sidr devastated borrowers --predominately women--a longer break from their micro credit debts-payments than until March.
Take Back the Tech wants us to revise & recast /or take steps to feministing Wikipedia by adding our research & sources. I hope that any posters will do this carefully and mindfully b/c Wikipedia can be a very powerful resource. Unfortunately too many students in my classes are just cutting and pasting Wikipedia as their own work without doing the necessary research and work. I hope that people who have built my bridges and did my surgery have not just looked it up on Wikipedia.
For those who have been following the Justice for Nadine saga (and ignoring the many other cases of domestic violence and VAW in our own communities), I strongly encourage you to read Abdul Kargo's concluding and profound essay (and esp the last three paragraphs): Lessons Have Been Learned. Now it’s Time to Pick up the Pieces and Move On., on this saga, and also in response to 157 comments (including 3 by me) on his earlier post, What's a Woman's Worth Meaured Against.
He concludes: "Accept that it happened. Acknowledge that it was terrible. Then pick up the pieces and move on. That’s what I intend to do."
My concluding remarks--on this case until he's arrested and had his day in court: alleged abuser and rapist Sajid Huq, is still a fugitive, wanted by New York City on these felony charges. The warrants for his arrest remain open. Until there is justice & safety for Nadine and other abused women from their abusers, none of us will be safe from the Sajid Huqs of the world.
I hope that all who have participated in this saga will reach out to one another and their communities to end this violence-adda-gossip and support those activists and ordinary people who are doing the hard-difficult-everyday work in this area.
****Check out a new resource from January 2008: New Blogsite OUT AGAINST ABUSE to educate and organize the South Asian Community about domestic violence-gender abuse--please read, comment, and discuss this resource!****
Last but not least:
- Please check out the today's and earlier VAW posts on Bangladesh from Our View (English) and Amader Kotha blogs (Bangla). These young women (and men) give me hope.
- Best wishes e doa to Sheikh Rumana for her surgery & tara tari recovery so she can return to her work for women migrants' rights
- To Shawn about making a difference btw, the voting is still open on his contest video.....'To Phil, From Bangladesh'--and in second place.
- All those bloggers who have posted on VAW and the 16 Days Campaign
- Those unnamed, cannot be named for their safety, and not so famous people doing the hard work to make sure that all of us have human rights
Saturday, December 8, 2007
Some Post Cyclone Sidr Update: Will the Micro-Credit Installment -Collection Non-Interest Loan Plan Really Stand Up?
TWO THREE long weeks have passed since Cyclone Sidr roared ashore in Bangladesh and killed at least 3400+ people, injured many more, and devastated land, businesses, and futures. Many people have documented the profound losses, experiences, reflection, need for massive relief-fundraising now & better coordination of relief and such fundraising, and in the future, extensive reconstruction efforts. The United Bangladesh Appeal have launched the Sidr Victims' Compensation fund for survivors along with other donors' appeals. Nonetheless the Bangladeshi English media and blogosphere continue to have fewer reports on relief, but these few continue to report higher than expected damage estimates, disparities in relief distribution & recovery including safe water, requests for more donor funds by the CA, and also new loans given to a big micro-credit NGO to expand its activities, while at the request of the CA and Army Chief, key microcredit-NGOs announced suspension of installment collections.
Speaking of survivors: what about compensation, cancellation of micro-credit debt for Sidr's dead victims, and repayment pressures on struggling survivors???? More conflicting stories have appeared since I first posted this story at the end of November. As my long title shows, the stor(ies) still are unclear. At first, the media reported that some NGO staff members had been pressurizing borrowers for interest-loan payment. These borrowers had survived Cyclone Sidr, but lost their businesses-capital-customers and could not make repayments.
Then starting from 5 December onwards, the CA and Army Chief have asked NGOs to tell their field staff to end the pressure and to forego payments at least until March and one newspaper opined that the NGOs should take these actions upon themselves, too. The CA and Army Chief also asked the Bangladesh Bank to consider waiving agriculture loan payments and disburse approved loans. Have the micro-credit field staff gotten these messages?
As of that previous week, no. As I wrote before, on Nov 26 the Caretaker government had asked NGOs not to demand loan repayments right now from cyclone survivors. Nonetheless, in a Daily Star article, Bilkis Begum would like her tk 80,000 microcredit debt cancelled because she feels like repayment is at least one year away. Md. Yunus of Grameen Bank explains why such debts cannot be cancelled, but that GB would offer 'interest free loans' tk 10,000 towards rebuilding account holders' houses, more time to pay off their debts and offers of new loans, e.g, more debt.
Then on 27 Nov 07, the Daily Star reported that micro-credit NGOs may have to cancel tk 600 cr (tk six billion) loans because of rules that if borrowers died, then their debts must be canceled. According to this article "In 12 south and south-western districts, some Tk 1,159 crore in loan remains outstanding with 15 lakh people, with 42 microcredit organisations operating in the region."Over 1227+ borrowers have died leaving the NGOs with many debts to cancel. These NGOs included Grameen Bank, BRAC, ASA, organizations affiliated with PKSF, and other smaller organizations.
Another official commented, "Although the microcredit providers are not going to make an announcement of the write-off right now, they might finally write the loans off since the small borrowers lost most of their houses, businesses, and other assets". Other officials indicated that they did not want to announce any more plans because people who could repay their loans would try to have them canceled, but they had advise their staff to 'suspend' their collection efforts from cyclone affected borrowers for the time being.
These debt cancellations will impact the micro-credit sector, but to what extent will only be seen over time. Critics have noted that many NGOs have used micro-credit operations as money makers among their other activities. Last year, as New Age noted about a World Bank report most NGOs survive and run their programs on micro-credit interest and not local donations (for bn version or full report) . Others have complained that although national offices made announcements about suspension of collection, often this message failed to trickle down to field staff who were under pressure from higher levels to collect loans.
Finally, this past week of 1-7 Dec 07, the national NGO offices gave their post Sidr plans. Grameen Bank announced suspension of installment payments for Cyclone Sidr survivors until end of June 2008 and interest free ‘realisable’ loans, and other interest free loans for rebuilding houses, livelihoods (which still increase debts), and cancellation of debts and return of savings to families of debtors who perished in Cyclone Sidr. ASA and PKSF announced similar packages. More recently BRAC announced that it would write off loans of tk 100 crore, discontinue installment collection until March, and provide loans to recover economic livelihoods. Interestingly, a few days earlier, BRAC announced a new $55m unsecured loan of seven years to expand taka microfinance from a consortium of international lenders . There have been no reports on what the smaller micro-credit NGOs will do about their loan write-offs for borrowers who died in Cyclone Sidr and/or borrowers-survivors who may be unable to service their loans given the lost of their businesses, dwellings, and customers. Or their viability: since most small NGOs have depended on loan repayments to fund their activities how they will continue to fund their programmes?
Nonetheless, by all accounts of the devastation in the coastal region, many surviving borrowers may never be able to recover much less with the micro-credit debt burden and pressurization on the survivors' backs. One author noted recently that in some areas so much food had come that some younger workers sold the excess food to meet other living needs and did not want to work in reconstruction. Further, his respondents’ “experience pertaining to default in payment of installment was not pleasant.” From this, readers-activists might ask: could surviving micro-credit debtors have to sell relief food-materials to make payments now and/or when installment collections resume?
Some previous micro-credit researchers has noted that often times women loan recipients skimped on food and household expenses to make their payment, e.g. eating their installments. Will the additional loans & debt to stimulate economic recovery be enough, especially if customers have no funds to make purchases from micro-credit businesses? What will happen to the borrowers and NGOs once the no- installment period passes and their debts-service have continued to accumulate through the interest free loans? This is how NGOs have padded their repayment rates—by giving more loans to pay off old loans and/or borrowers have taken multiple loans and/or borrowed from smaller micro-credit NGOs to pay off debts to larger NGOs. How long can borrowers--especially women borrowers-- and small NGOs in cyclone stricken areas survive these payment patterns?So what is/are the real situations throughout the Cyclone Sidr area in regard to micro-credit installments and relief; for NGOs & survivors-borrowers?
note: this is a revision-update of a 28 Nov 07 post
cross-posted in Drishtipat
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Often we have to scurry through disturbing images to get to more redeeming images and sites on the internet. Some times when pursuing the sitemeter links to our blogs, we can see purient search terms that certain readers use and end up linked to our blogs-sites. We can turn around and use these terms (girls, women, mobile, sex) or a certain alleged abuser-fugitive's name on our own sites of resistance.
The Take Back the Tech folks would like to see images that disturb, annoy, amuse, or inspire you from the internet or websites.
For day 12, I want to blog about some images-posts that inspired me. Yesterday, I included a variety of positive gifs and website images about VAW (those blinking gifs are still in my eyes). Today I link to three posts from Sheril Kirshenbaum, a gifted marine biologist, writer, musician, and advocate for women in science, environment, and for people around the world and Cylone Sidr, a category 5 hurricane that devastated much of Bangladesh three weeks ago.
In one of her most recent The Intersection posts, she wrote about how young women scientists had won the top honors at the Seimens Competition in Math, Science and Technology. This post had a great picture of one of the female winners wide-mouthed in surprise, happiness? These young women scientists inspire me (a sociologist) as well as Sheril's writing and advocacy for all kinds of water-fish-environmental issues (go to The Intersection for more of these posts).
Sheril has also written a thoughtful post on how she decided to change her blog picture to the current picture and representations of women scientists, for example, marine biologists. She discusses the tension about appearances, contents, and women defining themselves and parental input on our pictures-images. I sent her post to the Nari Jibon office to inspire some of the young and future computer students.
Finally, three weeks ago, I started reading Sheril on The Intersection when I was searching for information on Cyclone Sidr as it bore down on Bangladesh, but with little international media attention. Chris Mooney and The Intersection had the horrifying radar pictures of Sidr, and then Sheryl posted her motivational blogcast on how Bangladesh needs your help. Bangladesh still needs all of our help because the relief and reconstruction efforts are still ongoing, but international media attention has drifted away to the latest news (see some of my earlier posts on how to help and Nari Jibon blog coverage). Sheril's blogcast inspired and motivated to me to continue writing about Bangladesh, disasters, the cyclone, and about how disasters can lead to women and girl children's insecurity.
I look forward to seeing more of these articles and the Take Back the Tech images!
Friday, November 30, 2007
As you can imagine, I am very proud of them, especially when they came to the Nari Jibon office in Dhaka on Saturday, 17 Nov, not quite 48 hours after the Cyclone Sidr stormed across Bangladesh and left the office-classes without electricity or internet connections. And they came for English and other classes and started handwriting their stories in English and Bangla, went out and talked with people and took photos, uploaded their stories and photos when the power & internet came on a few days later, and now they are accessible via the Internet to you.
Consider making a Sidr donation. Rumi tells of the sad story of Eachi’r Ma and her late daughter, and also encourages you to donate to the Sidr compensation fund to be set up via United Bangladesh Appeal, to provide funds to survivors. If you prefer another venue, check out the links in previous posts and making a donation for relief efforts, which will be going on for a long time.
If you are interested in knowing more about Nari Jibon Project, you can click on the links on the lower right side-blue box of your screen and/also the important link--donation--these young women and staff with support for their computer, language, tailoring, and training activities. They take classes in English, Computers, Bangla and Tailoring--all for nominal fees--and have access to the secure Nari-only cyber cafe (along with other women customers). Consider giving a donation-gift in your own or someone's name so that a meritorious but poor female can take a class, have safe transportation, and class supplies (a list of needs-donations-gifts is available on request, but uploaded soon at www.narijibonusa.org).
Friday, November 23, 2007
Post Cyclone Relief: Coordination & Donations to All Flood Affected & Give Food That People Can Eat Now
Relief efforts are underway and millions of dollars of relief pledged, but not yet cash-supplies in hand for the Bangladeshi government, charities, aid agencies, much less for the flood affected people. USA Navy ships approach and/or even docked. One big problem as detailed by reports from BBC, CNN, and other media sources has been uneven coordination of relief efforts and getting relief materials to people who need it including people are not near district offices or received media attention or 'connections'.
Relief efforts are particularly important for women and children excluded from the community, without male partners, and/or ultra poor-geographically isolated. In a series of posts, on 22 November post, Naima Chowdhury writes how traffickers (including local police) are preying on young female orphans who have lost their parents.
Or some cyclone affected women and children are socially excluded from their communities: sex workers. In a repeated update to my earlier post re the sex workers in Mongla, we are reminded that some people affected by this Cyclone and might not be helped by their community and relief agencies. In a 21 Nov 07 post, aid worker, Naima Chowdhury, reported that although the women had advance notice of the Cyclone, local people refused them shelter and aid because of their work. Action Aid has given them chira (puffed rice and dal), but need more aid to continue. The women and their children are facing hard times because they have fewer customers from low activity at the port, she notes, "These women are incredibly poor and also face exclusion from the rest of the community."
As discussed by Sujan, in Dhaka, some people want to do something, but do not know what to collect and how to get it to agencies for distributions. On the one hand, some flood affected people need warm clothes, but on the other hand, how and where will they receive the clothes collected by students in Dhaka? Or will Shawn ever get to distribute his blankets?
Another very important issue is the actual content of relief packets (also a problem in earlier flood relief efforts): some people have received bags of rice and lentils, but have NO pots to cook in or fire to cook with AND no good water. Hence, the demand for food that the people can eat now.
Even during good times, Bangladeshis also survive on a system of loans--from micro-credit NGOs, banks, money-lenders, store credit, and even family members who are paid back when funds come in and/or are squeezed out family [rice] budgets. Many people also have ongoing loans from micro-credit NGOs for their small businesses and loans from banks & money-lenders for replanting their crops already washed away by two summer floods. As before and during post floods, many micro-credit agents demanded payments for interest from flood affected people. What will happen with the micro-credit & hurricane affected people who lost their livestock, business goods, and crops? Demands from banks, money lenders, and business people? According to DhakaShoshor and citing an Amader Shomoy article (Bn) conflicting accounts have developed over whether certain NGOs have continued their collections and/or extent of their relief efforts and the sources of these allegations.
Updated information 26 Nov 07, the Caretaker government has asked NGOs not to demand loan repayments right now from cyclone survivors. Nonetheless, in a Daily Star article, Bilkis Begum would like her tk 80,000 microcredit debt cancelled because she feels like repayment is at least one year away. Md. Yunus of Grameen Bank explains why such debts cannot be cancelled, but that GB would offer 'interest free loans' tk 10,000 towards rebuilding account holders' houses, more time to pay off their debts and offers of new loans, e.g, more debt.
Post disaster recovery has both short and long term needs and activities. Already affected people are starting to rebuild, but what are their needs now and later? Donations on the ground and in the pipeline will help with the short-run needs, such as food, water, and shelter. At the same time donations are also needed for the long-term recovery of very poor people who have lost everything. This includes their destroyed crops almost ready for harvest after post summer floods replanting & loans, in their fish ponds, shrimp farming (3rd largest export earner) & business livelihoods, rebuilding of the infrastructures, and such structures such as much needed cyclone shelters. Many of the over 3000 shelters were unusable, overcrowded, or simply not available. As earlier noted by Rezwan, some of the post recovery funds-donations should be directed towards building more shelters.
Such disasters take a very big emotional toll on relief workers, readers, and people who care. Some people might feel a sense of disaster & donor fatigue, especially after the Indonesia Tsunami in 2004, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and now Cyclone Sidr in 2007 (among others in the Gulf, Pakistan, and even more coming ashore in the Philippines) . BTW, Bangladesh donated $1 million in aid to the USA in response to Katrina!
Even if they know about Bangladesh and its location, others might feel that Bangladesh is an ongoing disaster with floods, political upheavals, and cyclones. I might have thought that, too, except for my stays and work in Bangladesh with resilient people who somehow bounce back and would still give their last grain of rice to a visitor. The problem is that many people on the coast have not a single grain of rice, a cooking pot, fire, or water.
I will leave for later my comments on the gendered nature of disasters and my analyses on patterns of aid, development, population growth that have resulted in large populations living in areas prone to cyclones, flooding, and earthquakes and dependent on export earnings and foreign aid. Or people living in high cost areas prone to regular wildfires or hurricanes (my home insurance rates are still higher from certain Atlantic-Gulf Coast hurricanes and I live far inland).
Hence, the people of Bangladesh and various relief agencies still need your donations. Places to donate can be found in earlier posts, or a convenient listing for people in the USA can be found on the website: www.helpthemsurvive.org This website, generated by an expat's USA company's programmers-staff (M2SYS Technology), lists links for some donors, news updates, and how you can raise awareness in your own community.
As Abdul Kargbo writes on why everyone should care, "Compassion Does not Recognize State Boundaries."
Monday, November 19, 2007
Post Sidr, Dhaka's cyclone baby, men who seek Bangladeshi girls, women, mobile numbers during storms
Given how many people are living in such shelters in Dhaka and other areas affected by the Cyclone, falling trees, flying tin roofs & poorly secured billboards, these were probably common scenes. At the same time, many have commented on how quickly the fallen trees and limbs were cleared by local residents and scavengers in Dhaka neighborhoods (see Shawn's ongoing posts).
Others on the coast had more mixed experiences with trees-branches that saved them, trees that graphically failed as secure shelter in 2007 & 1991 (see Rumi), and now for survivors--downed trees-branches that serve a source of income and fuel.
From a phone call and emails, I heard that Nari Jibon staff and students are fine. As the computer connections improve, more posts will appear soon re their own experiences, including Rafiq's post on his experiences and tense mobile calls to and from his sisters who were on the coast during the storm and his observations on information & preparations (and lack thereof) for Cyclone Sidr.
Finally in a reminder that all people have been affected by this Cyclone and might not always be helped by relief agencies, see Jonathan Munshi's post storm photos from the Mongla sex worker village (brothel) as they struggle to repair their dwellings. In a later post on 21 Nov 07, aid worker, Naima Chowdhury, reported that although the women had advance notice of the Cyclone, local people refused them shelter and aid because of their work. Action Aid has given them chira (puffed rice and dal), but need more aid to continue. The women and their children are facing hard times because they have fewer customers from low activity at the port, she notes, "These women are incredibly poor and also face exclusion from the rest of the community."
Ironically, before, during Cyclone Sidr, and even after, many people were still searching via Google for Bangladeshi girls, women, mobile numbers, sex, night life, etc (as reflected by the site meter readings & referral search terms that I monitor for the Nari Jibon blog and coming from some rather devout places). These links are common to all of us who blog on women's issues, but the international flavour and focus on Bangladeshi females has caught my attention.
Interesting how certain demands do not change even during disasters such as cyclones and floods--as I observed in 2004 floods--where sex workers were expected to show up for work at hotels as were garment workers who traveled to their factories by boat! To these persons searching during storms for female company, get a life, and use your funds to make a donation to one of the relief agencies! To the relief agencies--help everyone--especially those who are out of work b/c the disaster! This is particularly important for women and children excluded from the community, without male partners, and/or ultra poor-geographically isolated. Finally in the same series of posts, on 22 November, Naima Chowdhury writes how traffickers (including local police) are preying on young female orphans who have lost their parents.
I hope that relief will reach all affected persons despite their class, work, social standing, and/or location and that aid officals will pay particular attention to women without partners and orphaned children.
Drishtipat has an updated list of places to donate. As per my post last night re the Elephant-bus photo, DhakaShohor reminds us that the elephants cannot do the recovery work alone.
Please make a donation, no matter how small.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Rezwan provides news, video, and donation sites. Go to the bottom of his post for links.
Zafanoor at her blog, Keep Me Honest, has updates as well as an excellent list of where to donate (at the bottom of her post), including some USA donation sites
Drishtipat discusses what people can do from afar with specific strategies as well as donation links.
Ironically although many donor organizations and countries have made pledges of help (including two US Navy ships steaming toward Bangladesh w/o the knowledge of the Bangladeshi government), the overwhelmed Bangladesh government has yet to ask for formal international help, despite that many people in the stricken coast areas have been in the open, without food or good water for going on three days. Hopefully, assorted sources of help will continue to come and the GOB, donor organizations, and countries can work out distribution and reconstruction plans especially for the immediate needs of the survivors. This has happened bfore: after the 1991 cyclone, Mash & Rezwan describe how several Navy ships-and their angels provided much needed assistance & good will to Bangladesh. Hopefully this can be a repeat visit, good help, and repair some tattered relationships with the USA through some direct face to face contacts and assistance.
Gradually the USA media has begun to report on Cyclone Sidr. An article appeared in my local newspaper in downstate Illinois (Sunday, Nov 18), local TV station, and even my mother in Casper Wyoming, reported seeing an AP- Pavel Rahman picture of an elephant helping to move a bus.
Some USA-international blogs on other topics are gradually providing information and links on this disaster. I encourage all readers to reach out, link, and and inform others about this ongoing disaster and long-term needs for donations and where to donate.
One last piece of good news: Baby Cyclone, (picture from BBC) who was born during the storm and named by his parents-grandmother. As noted by Mash, this little boy was born into and survived the destruction, but will need much help to make it through the aftermath. Like Mash and other bloggers, we hope that the power and information of the internet will generate donations and help for Bangladesh and the surviving but unseen little girls and boys who are the future as well as their families.
Cross-posted Bangladesh from Our View
Friday, November 16, 2007
Non-resident Bangladeshis and allies continue to blog about what has happened and their efforts to reach out and find their near and dear ones despite clogged and downed phone lines. Still not much in USA media or knowledge among many in USA, although the NYT's webpage had a front page story earlier today (now buried to a link).
As always, Rezwan has the latest posts and information in his excellent Third World View (see also his earlier posts), including map of the population density in storm surge and cyclone areas and Dr. Jeff Master's analyses.
Before you decided to donate, contribute to relief efforts, first read Rezwan's insightful post on "How can you help Bangladesh cyclone victims?" where he discusses the limitations of what the Bangladesh government can do, the roles of NGOs in distributing enormous amounts of relief, but also some specific actions that all of us can take to help Bangladesh recover such as buying Bangladesh, raising funds for specific projects, and encouraging our governments do something such as lowering the tariff/import barriers for Bangladeshi garments and knit goods...legislation that has been languishing in the U.S. congress and Senate.
Also check back often to his post because he continues to update, such as this link to Drishtipat-Unheard Voices on how people outside of Bangladesh can help and mobilize.
According to many sources, the death toil from Cyclone Sidr has risen to 1700+ and many more thousands are injured and/or lost their dwellings-livestock-livelihoods amidst the coming Bangladesh cold, collapse of Bangladesh's power grid, and resultant loss of mobile, internet, and phone networks and safe potable water. I have made contact with Nari Jibon staff who are OK and say they are carefully using their electricity and computer backup batteries, but have little or no electricity and no internet connections.
From the Intersection, which provided valuable pre Sidr information, comes Sheril's video plea for more help for Bangladesh and Chris's latest post provides some links to on the scene Care (from Alertnet) , overall updates and working agencies-NGO-maps, and Relief Net reports, click on Bangladesh: Tropical Cyclone links which lead to links for UN Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs OCHA, Report No. 1 or the storm surge map from Int'l Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies (also working with UN). Other agencies have stepped in as well before and after Sidr.
The good news is that in the seven days preceding Cyclone Sidr's landfall, unprecedented coordination of NGOs and government in evacuations occurred although the numbers of shelters were far less than the millions of persons seeking shelter. Ideally, this prevented immediate high death tolls like in 1970 and 1991, but the ongoing tragedy may be what happens to the millions of survivors--many of whom are injured-- who are living in cold, wet, open air conditions with little or no good drinking water and food.
Once again continue to pay attention to the plight of Bangladesh and the storm affected people through your thoughts, prayers and donations to some of these and your other international relief charities. Hopefully these relief goods and efforts will make their way--directly and quickly-- to the people who need them the most. Again, read Rezwan's insightful post on "How can you help Bangladesh cyclone victims?"
P.S. I just had a long telephone chat with the staff of Nari Jibon Project who have come to the office today despite no electricity and internet connections. Some english students have also shown up for their class and are busy writing their own stories! For more on this conversation and few of their stories go to Bangladesh from Our View. I will post more of their stories on Sunday-Monday if their internet connection is still closed.
Even before Sidr, Bangladesh had been going through political and economic struggles. Bangladesh is still in a state of political emergency with a civilian caretaker government backed by the military. Elections are not planned until late 2008. Essential food prices are up and even before the storm, the government admitted that it had to import rice and other foodstuffs. The garments export sector continues to struggle with competition from China and Vietnam. Ironically, the major export fair Bangladesh Apparel and Textile Exposition (Batexpo 2007) opened on Thursday--right before Sidr arrived to give potential buyers a taste of Bangladesh, its weather, and resilience. The women garment workers are dutiful: in previous, hartals, national emergencies or disasters--flooding--garment workers have somehow arrived at their workplaces albeit by boat.
Finally, perhaps one sign of development/ICT: last night Nari Jibon English teacher and blogger Bipa contacted me on email via her cell phone browser because that was her only power supply for communication during the power outages. She's ok.
I hope that the USA and other international media and bloggers continue to cover this ongoing situation and post Sidr recovery. We will post more stories from Nari Jibon staff and students as we receive them. Nonetheless, the essential thing that people need to use a computer and their mobiles: power! This seems to be in short supply in Bangladesh right now along with safe-drinkable water.
Some parts also crossposted in Bangladesh from our View
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Although the government says its preparations include the shelters built after the previous cyclone, many are asking: What shelters and in what condition? Both Masters and the BBC among others have commented on the limited number of 2500 multi-use shelters and many of them are in poor condition for the millions that need them. Others may have no where to go and as noted in my earlier post and in BBC, refuse to leave their dwellings, animals and families despite a more extensive warning system than in 1970 and 1991. Or some fishing boats seek to gain the advantage against fewer boats and get caught in the storms.
The Government of Bangladesh says that it is ready to deal with the situation much like they have with the floods of 2004 and 2007. Rezwan provides a list of events and preparations. As shown in pictures, many people have already sought shelter. We will have to see how this transpires because besides some warnings and evacuation orders, much of the previous disaster responses and international donor-media attention have occurred much after the event when Bangladesh appealed for help.
Inland, Dhaka residents already were feeling the effects of Sidr. On midday Thursday, some Nari Jibon Project staff told me via e-mail that they had already experienced hard rains, high winds, and much difficulty reaching the project office. Knowledge of the Cyclone and its track was limited to reports in local newspapers and they were shocked to see the tracking links-pictures that I had sent via my previous blog post.
According to Project Director, Rafiq Islam, "It has been raining since morning with onek thanda batash (much cold wind) I have come to office onek kosto kore (much hard effort)". I sent the staff and few students home before they had any further transportation challenges in flooded streets and high winds that send debris and tin roofs airborne. The Project office and classes will be closed until the weather clears. These Dhaka weather conditions occurred, even in advance of Sidr's landfall on Thursday night. Now Sidr is moving onwards through the densely populated southern region to Dhaka as a Category 2 hurricane.
Some newer links Bangladesh & Dhaka, Media updates
Please continue to keep the people of Bangladesh and India in your thoughts and prayers as Sidr continues its path through the heart of Bangladesh.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Despite the enormous toil that Cyclone Sidr may take, other bloggers and I have seen little or no coverage in US media on this impending disaster and catastrophe that may be bigger than previous record storms in especially Bhola 1970 where 500,000 people died and another in 1991, where nearly 140,000 people lost their lives.
Over the last few days, India and Bangladesh have ordered evacuations of coastal areas where millions live in low areas barely a foot or more above sea level (and predicted storm surges of 9-12 feet). At least 10 million Bangladeshi need to evacuate, but Bangladesh has cyclone shelters for only about .5 million people.
Evacuations will not be so easy with roads clogged with poor people trying to leave with their only possessions, animals, and children. Much of the transportation in this area is by boats and launches, which have been stopped by the increasingly high winds and waves ahead of this cyclone.
Much of the evacuation burdens will be borne by women who must keep their children and animals safe & fed as well as themselves in the chaos. They will find their own mobility-safety restricted by these tasks and their own clothing-modesty ahead of storm surges, tidal waves, and floods. Many of the deaths in recent Bangladeshi floods and cyclones have been from women and children who have drowned and of the survivors through disease, little or no drinkable water, and little food or relief.
High winds, rain, and cyclone weather will affect the western and middle parts of Bangladesh until Cyclone Sidr becomes a tropical storm in about three or four more days. This will probably bring more floods to central and southern Bangladesh, which have only begun to recover from the summer 2007 floods as well as high inflation in the prices of essential goods. In urban areas such as Dhaka where just a moderate rain results in much flooding of streets, slums, and living areas owing to poor drainage & waterlogging, even more people will suffer from Cyclone Sidr and its heavy rains, winds, storms, and damage.
This impending landfall affects millions in India and Bangladesh whose lives, homes, and crops will be disrupted, displaced and possibly lost, but also generations of their near and dear ones who have migrated to Europe, USA, and other parts of the world for school, work, and family and who now watch, worry, and wait for news.
Please inform yourself about the eventual path and story of Cyclone Sidr, keep the people in its path in your hearts-prayers, and give so that they can recover from yet another disaster in the stormy Bay of Bengal.