Super Cyclone' Amphan hit across the Bay of Bengal on 19th -20th May, reaching speeds of 180km/hour - the fasted storm ever recorded in the bay - killing over 80 people and destroying countless homes in India and Bangladesh. CARE teams are assessing the damage and starting to respond.
In India’s Odisha and West Bengal states, Amphan destroyed thatched houses and semi-solid housing structures, laid waste to standing and newly sown summer crops of paddy, pulses, vegetables; and damaged critical power, communication, water, river dams, roads, forestation and livestock in abundance. As a result, an estimated 4 million people stand exposed to severe hunger, malnutrition, poverty, and exposure to diseases.
“These aren’t just plants that were washed away. These people were sowing their dreams—working all year to farm food that was going to provide for their future and it has all disappeared in an instant,” says CARE’s Regional Director Deepmala Mahla.
Super Cyclone Amphan, which is currently the largest storm ever recorded in the Bay of Bengal with sustained wind speeds of up to 165 miles/hr, is expected to hit Bangladesh on 20 May 2020.
Amphan is just the second super cyclone to hit the Bay of Bengal in recorded history. During the last super cyclone in 1999 almost 10,000 people were killed. By now, 2.2. million people have been moved to storm shelters. All river transport transports, including ferry services, are suspended across the country. The maritime ports have stopped loading and unloading goods from the ships.
COVID-19 situation: As of 19 May, Bangladesh confirms 1,251 new virus cases, taking the tally to 25,121; the number of death stands at 370 with 21 people dead in the last 24 hours. In Cox’s Bazar a total of 203 positive cases have so far been detected including six Rohingya people.
CARE has teams on the ground preparing for the cyclone, and also runs three of the encampments that make up the Rohingya refugee camps at Cox’s Bazar, where over 850,000 Rohingya refugees live.
Walter Mwasaa, Acting Country Director for CARE Bangladesh says “These are unprecedented times globally and closer, in Bangladesh, when the country is beginning to come to terms with an increasing number of COVID-19 cases as the testing increases, we now have a new fast emerging crisis.
"The government has started moving people in its path into shelters estimated to be able to hold over 5 million people... With the current COVID-19 pandemic it’s impossible to imagine how social distancing will be achieved, we can only hope for the best."
Somalia has seen an unprecedented surge of deaths in recent days with this number is likely to be even higher than reported due to lack of Covid-19 testing. Somalia has recorded 756 COVID-19 cases, including 35 deaths, as of 5 May, however, CARE is particularly worried by the fact that around 60% of those being tested are testing positive for the virus – a figure higher than much of the rest of the world.
Abdi Nur Elmi, CARE Somalia Emergency Director says: “The numbers of people being tested for the coronavirus in Somalia remain low, but the worrying trend that we are seeing is that over 60% of people being tested are coming back positive for the virus. This is much higher than in European countries or the US. While there are of course a number of reasons why this may be the case, it is still extremely worrying in a country where less than 20 per cent of the health facilities have the required equipment and supplies to manage an outbreak this is extremely worrying news. Somalia is already one of the world’s most vulnerable countries with over 2.6 million internally displaced people (IDPs) living in 2,000 overcrowded sites, with poor access to safe drinking water, clean latrines and hygiene kits including soap and more than 1.2 million people suffering from food insecurity. Coronavirus coming on top of this risks reversing the many hard-won gains achieved over the last decade across the country.”
Many of West Africa’s most vulnerable and conflict-affected countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso, and Nigeria have now declared states of health emergency or confinements as a result of COVID-19. Protracted conflict already means many people weren’t able to access their fields to grow and harvest food, and has led to food shortages in markets. Now the impact from COVID-19 is worsening and increasing food and nutrition insecurity for millions more. An estimated 17 million people across West Africa will need food and nutrition assistance during the upcoming June–August lean season.
Given their contribution to food production and preparation, their role in society as child bearers and caregivers, and the high number of female-headed households in West Africa, women are also particularly vulnerable to food insecurity.
In order to avoid a food and nutrition crisis in the immediate term, the COVID response must address food and nutrition security as well as helping to prevent the spread of the virus, particularly among the most vulnerable and those in extreme poverty, including women and girls. Livelihood support, particularly for small-scale farmers, is critical to avoid a medium-term or longer-term food and nutrition crisis.
CARE’s response includes sensitisation/risk communication about COVID-19, WASH (water, sanitation, hygiene) support, gender-based violence prevention and response, health, food security, and cash and voucher support. We will also be working through our long-running VSLA (village savings and loan associations) programme, which supports resilience, self-sufficiency and solidarity among primarily women-led community groups. VSLA groups in crisis settings have previously proved a valuable support for women and their families coping with protracted conflict, displacement and economic hardship as well as being an important platform for promoting solidarity between displaced women and those from host communities.
In total, CARE and our partners are currently undertaking specific activities to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in 63 countries around the world. To date, we have reached 2.6m with COVID-specific or adapted programmes. We have directly reached nearly 2 million people with hygiene messaging, 600,000 with hygiene kits, and 773,000 with increased access to water, 114,000 with food or cash/voucher support, and 23,000 with handwashing stations. Key approaches used include behavioural change communications (57 countries), in kind assistance (44 countries), cash (26 countries ), technical assistance (32 countries) and advocacy (26 countries).