Every year APON provides relief materials and undertakes rehabilitation programs for victims of floods, cyclones and other natural disasters. In 2007, APON distributed relief materials in the Manikganj district, more than 63% of which had been inundated by the flood waters. In 2009, widespread destruction was caused to coastal villages by Cyclone ‘Aila’ which hit the Bangladesh border in the last week of May. Much of the damage was caused by massive internal flooding, which contaminated drinking water sources with seawater and killed the fish in fresh water ponds. Thousands of people were rendered marooned or homeless because of the cyclone.
On 3rd June 2009, an eight-member Disaster Management Team of APON Foundation distributed relief materials among victims of Cyclone Aila in Atulia, Shyamnagar, Satkhira. The relief, which included 3 kgs rice, 1 kg daal, 1 kg potatoes and 1 kg salt, was distributed among more than 450 of the worst affected families in the region. APON also donated 2000 packets of Orsaline to a local relief organization for distribution in the remote areas of Shyamnagar, Satkhira. APON’s volunteers in Satkhira were well-prepared for the distribution. They managed the registration of the recipients and helped to pack and distribute the relief goods amongst the villagers of Shyamnagar, Satkhira. APON’s experience showed that while there were numerous organizations all over the country providing relief materials to the affected people, there were only a few organizations actually involved in providing rehabilitation facilities to the people of Satkhira. In fact, till date, neither government agencies nor NGOs have provided inhabitants of the region the much needed resources essential for a return to a normal life. The lack of proper need assessment and the absence of co-ordination between aid agencies are the main reasons for the lack of any significant improvement in the fate of the people in the coastal regions. In future, APON’s Programs will be directed towards rehabilitation and development as opposed to distribution of relief materials.
Hundreds died all over the country in the winter of 2009. The ‘Cold Spell’ (Shyotto Probaho) was too much to bear for those disadvantaged sections of the people, who had barely enough clothes to cover themselves. On the evening of 24th December 2009, a 7 member APON team distributed a large quantity of blankets and warm clothes among mainly women and children sleeping on pavements/footpaths and slums in various parts of the city, including Kawran Bazaar, Moghbazaar, New Market area, Shahbag, Dhaka University (Doyel Chottor), High Court Mazaar area. Many of the slum dwellers among whom we distributed the warm clothes were old and frail and were suffering because of the extreme cold and wind.
APON’s Disaster and Relief Programme is currently conducted on an ‘ad-hoc’ basis, i.e. as and when necessary. The experience of distributing warm clothes in December 2009 taught APON an important lesson – that the inhabitants of Dhaka city receive sufficient aid, in terms of warm clothing during winter from various government and non-governmental organisations. In fact, most of APON students, who are all based in Dhaka city, received ample supplies of warm clothes from government and non-government agencies. APON decided that henceforth warm clothes and blankets should be distributed on a priority and need basis, for instance, in remote villages, particularly in the northern districts of the country, where the temperature during the winter season is the lowest and the people, being the poorest suffer the most.