Emergency response to West Bengal – ActionAid India
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Emergency response to West Bengal

Author: Susan Sreemala
Posted on: Thursday, 11th June 2020

First Super Cyclone of this Century

Tropical Cyclone Amphan rampaged through coastal Odisha and West Bengal, dumping heavy rain, swamping homes and farmland, and leaving many people dead. The Super Cyclone Amphan over Northwest Bay of Bengal moved north-northeast with a speed of 25 kmph, crossed Odisha, West  Bengal and ­Bangladesh coasts as a Very Severe Cyclonic Storm with a speed of 155­/165 kmph gusting to 190 kmph across the Sundarbans. The cyclone, whose eye was about 30 kilometres in diameter, made landfall at Sundarbans on 20th May 2020. Heavy rain, gusty winds up to 190 kmph battered West Bengal, Odisha after the extremely severe Cyclone Amphan made landfall uprooting thousands of trees in Kolkata, 24 South Parganas, East Medinipur of West Bengal and few northern districts in Odisha. The cyclone has caused widespread damage to rural and urban infrastructure and property especially thatched houses, roads, electricity, loss of livelihoods – livestock, trees, petty shops, crops in West Bengal. Across West Bengal vegetable, jute, floriculture, betel vines and sesame crops were damaged. Roofs of several houses also collapsed as a result of the strong winds during the cyclonic spell. Loss of 86 human lives has been reported in West Bengal (PTI). Since the danger of COVID-19 is still looming large, the cyclone has caused untold sufferings for the vulnerable communities in affected areas. West Bengal Chief Minister Ms Mamata Banerjee has described this as a catastrophe. Addressing a press meet she said damages due to the Cyclone Amphan could be to the tune of Rs 1 lakh crores. and that “we will have to rebuild everything”. According to estimates by her team, over 10 lakh houses have been affected in the South 24 Parganas district alone.

Double Whammy – Two Disasters on Top of Each Other

In West Bengal, due to extensive curbs placed on movement to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus- it has been difficult for civil society organisations to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the loss incurred. ActionAid has undertaken assessments of the situation in Kolkata East Medinipur and South 24 Parganas immediately after the cyclone through face-to-face and telephonic conversations with affected people in the cyclone-affected villages through community volunteers, physical visits and walks in the areas affected to assess material and resource damage. We have also relied on rapid assessment reports of several agencies/departments, photographic and audio-visual evidence of damages to dwellings, agricultural fields, fishing areas, buildings and sanitation facilities, conversations with evacuees at the flood relief centres, interactions with local block and district level administration, secondary: Reports and press coverage by the West Bengal state government, reputed state and national media houses, public announcements by the Chief Minister, West Bengal etc.

Emergency Response Plans in Place

Based on these assessments ActionAid plans to reach 9,200 affected households of East Medinipur, South 24 Parganas and Kolkata in West Bengal where it has a prior presence. The affected communities were already reeling under the impact of COVID19 with loss of jobs, wages and livelihood. Cyclone Amphan has rendered them more vulnerable to meet their basic needs like food, household materials, shelter, and livelihood. Therefore in addition to our COVID- 19 response, through this support we plan to support the households with these immediate needs so that they are back on their feet while following norms of social distancing. Apart from the immediate relief our Emergency Response also hopes to undertake long-term rehabilitation to affected people. A crucial part of our rehabilitation efforts will be towards providing cash support to informal workers and other vulnerable households provided with support for agriculture or livestock. Inclusion of such vulnerability criteria while selecting livelihood beneficiaries as well as providing women-specific livelihoods can have a positive impact on ‘unsafe migration’ and protection of women and girls is already prevalent and has possibly increased in the course of the COVID crisis. Another form of rehabilitation support is through supporting families to repair their homes intermittently in the period before they can avail of compensation provided by the government.

Support Vulnerable Families Affected by Cyclone Amphan

You can support the relief efforts and help victims of Cyclone Amphan in West Bengal by making an Online donation to provide relief materials to the most needy families
  1. Emergency medical supplies
  2. Dry rations
  3. Mosquito nets
  4. Material for COVID-19 protection
  5. Solar lamps
  6. Education kit for children
  7. Sanitation kits
  8. household items
  9. Anganwadi* centre restoration (*rural child care centre)
  10. Restoration of houses and logistical support
  11. Installation of water purifiers
  12. Livelihood rehabilitation