Six thousand volunteers from Cyclone Preparedness Programme (CPP) of the government were trained and equipped thoroughly, under Integrating Community-based Adaptation into Afforestation and Reforestation (ICBAAR) programme, of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the coastal areas of Bangladesh.
Despite best efforts, cyclone Bulbul caused at least 26 deaths. However, the volunteers contributed greatly in disseminating the early warning messages, evacuating as many people from danger areas as possible, and bringing them to shelters; minimising loss and damage.
CPP’s Deputy Director Hasanul Amin, from their headquarters in Dhaka, said, “The volunteers successfully raised cyclone awareness which helped minimise loss of life and property.”
“Due to their training from ICBAAR, they were well-prepared and helped the community lowering the damage in the project areas.”
A third of the trained volunteers are women who play significant role in mobilising women and children during any natural disaster, he added.
They help bring women and children to shelters, along with the male volunteers, in seven upazilas of the four most vulnerable districts, such as Bhola, Patuakhali, Barguna, and Noakhali.
Hashem Mohajon is a Union Council Chairmen as well as a CPP volunteer in Char Kukri, Charfassion, Bhola who received training from ICBAAR. He actively participated in cyclone Bulbul preparation and evacuation.
“Char Kukri and Char Patila are two small scattered islands on the Bay of Bengal under my union. Hearing that a no. 8 signal has been raised, I rushed to the chars along with other volunteers and helped people get to the shelters.”
“The signals themselves are not enough. We had to convince and explain to the people as many were reluctant to leave behind their houses and go to the shelters. We ended up evacuating around 500 people from these areas.”
Khadiza Khanom, the co-primary physician of CPP Unit-5 of Tazimuddin Upazila in Bhola, also actively participated in disseminating cyclone messages and evacuation.
She said, “Many women did not want to go to the cyclone shelter because of various prejudices and misconceptions. Female volunteers play a tremendous role in motivating them and convincing them to take shelter in a safe zone.”
“I have been a volunteer for CPP for 5 years. Our unit has five women and 10 men. All of us took on a proactive role to minimise the loss from cyclone Bulbul,” she added.
The ICBAAR project began in 2017, aiming to introduce climate-adaptive livelihood options to vulnerable people of the coastal islands, after the successful completion of the Community-based Adaptation to Climate Change through Coastal Afforestation (CBACC) project.