South Asian Forum for Environment

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A Pandemic and Amphan cyclone: Relief and mitigation measures: SAFE response to the crisis.

Areas covered 24 Parganas (South): Gosaba block (Villages: Sandeshkhali, Tiplighiri, Kumirmari, Amtoli, Satjelia, Deulbari) in Sunderbans, in West Bengal.
(1)       To reach out to Amphan cyclone-affected marginal communities of coastal Sunderbans with relief.
(2)      To deliver emergency services for sustaining basic minimum amenities for health and hygiene as well, in pandemic time.
(3)      To plan a long-term recovery resilience plan for the farmers of Sunderbans.

The communities of the deltaic Sunderbans have been living with vulnerabilities of disasters like cyclones and floods for decades now. However, the COVID-Pandemic and the subsequent lockdown since March 2020 pushed the world into a crisis most severe in its recent history and the impact is unseen.  For the marginal communities of Sunderbans, the severity of the catastrophe intensified when Super Cyclone Amphan; a powerful and deadly tropical cyclone hit Eastern India specifically West Bengal on 21st May 2020 causing widespread damage. For Sunderbans, enduring a cyclone 260km/per hour, and the pandemic spawned a double trail of devastation and its hazards are as real as ever.
What I could have done to deserve this agony? In exhaustion, says, Bhibrani Vaidya, 53-year-old woman, a resident of Sunderbans, waiting for her son to return home. She said, almost a year ago, he had left home to move to Bangalore, to work as migrant labour. Her husband died when she was 35, and now lives with daughter in law and two grand children in Sandeshkahli village of Sunderbans. It’s been two months since son as daily wage labor has lost his job and his unable to send money home, and the Amphan cyclone, has blew away the shed of the small hut owned by the family. They are in hundreds, thousands such homes, for whom everything changed in day and COVID continues to hang on.
South Asian Forum for Environment, SAFE (Estb: 2004) a registered, non-profit civil society organization working towards sustainable environment development and poverty alleviation, under a partnership program with Blue-Yonder and allied organizations swung into action in combating the dual crisis of COVID19 pandemic and the aftermath of Super Cyclone Amphan, with short-term mitigation plan related to health awareness, food and nutrition security as well as a sustainable alternative livelihood.
There are around 5000+ households in cyclone impacted deltaic coastal areas of district 24 Parganas (South & North), who are critically ostracized from mainstream development and thrive on thin livelihood as marginal farmers and fishers, who have been stuck at home due to the current lockdown in sheer crisis. While they are the most vulnerable communities for the spread of infectious diseases, they are socially remote in terms of accessing the current support extended from the administration in the milieu of this dual crisis.
Duration, Target beneficiaries, and Location: The activity in continuation Post cyclone initiated for eight weeks in two hamlet locations each in Kumirmari and Aamtoli gram panchayats, in Gosaba block and Sandeshkhali Block of Sunderbans. The SAFE COVID relief program was launched on 7th April 2020 World Health Day, and since then it has been strengthened by collective effort with esteemed partners to continue to reach out to vulnerable communities; a tremendous commitment and support made the relief work impactful in terms of both short-term mitigation and long-term sustainability plans. The future normal will be certainly different from the past normal. SAFE thanks Blue Yonder, and its team for extending support to SAFE, we have managed to open doors to gain a clear sense of what is needed in a combined effort to, “Help in this day, as we can live up for tomorrow”.