Heartbreak in Bangladesh: Cyclone Aila

They are the most heartbreaking reports I’ve seen during my 12 months in this job. (Not that you can really quantify or categorize something like this, but last week was the first time I cried reading a crisis report.)

Cyclone Aila. If you haven’t heard about it, don’t feel bad. It really hasn’t been in the news much at all.

None of the major world news sites say anything about it. When I checked yesterday, they all had headlines about singing sensation Susan Boyle, but nothing about Cyclone Aila. However, just because there are no headlines doesn’t mean there is no news.

Over the past week, David Adhikary, our communications specialist in Bangladesh, has been sending photos and reports from the midst of the cyclone’s aftermath. They are devastating. Here are a few excerpts from his reports …

“During the disaster night, the children and their families suffered a lot. The cyclone took down their houses, and after that the dams were destroyed. Some of children had to stand in water for the whole night. The center staff found many of the children in a wet condition.”

“The Compassion center staff and the parents of the children are very anxious about the aftereffects of the flood. The dead animals could cause dangerous diseases, and the probability of malaria is very high.”

“There is not a single house in the village that hasn’t been affected by floodwater. The village is near the sea and the river water is very salty. The floodwater mixed with their water sources and made it impossible to drink.

“The water crisis is the major problem for the people. People were seen drinking the polluted floodwater to put off their thirst. The floodwater is very dirty and stinky. The dead animals and fish are floating all over the water. Children of that area are also drinking the same water.”

Worse …

“The affected families have taken shelter at the nearest market. The families are staying with the animals in the market. The marketplace is badly polluted as the people are using the place for all kinds of uses.

“There is no toilet and the people are using free spaces for a toilet.

“The adult girls are staying with their families in the marketplace. Their parents are very anxious about their daughters because at nighttime they have to stay with lots of unknown people together in the marketplace.”

And perhaps saddest of all …

“This morning we received very sad news about one of the children we assist. Her mother committed suicide just after the cyclone disaster. Their house was broken down and she committed suicide out of her frustrations. She lost her husband last year during Cyclone Sidr. She faced many challenges last year and finally gave up. [The children] are now orphans and vulnerable. They lost their father and mother in two consecutive cyclones. Please join us in pray for these children.”

Oh, God.

It feels like it’s too much, doesn’t it? When I read stuff like this, I find myself begging Jesus to hurry up and return and make all things right. It’s difficult not to get overwhelmed with despair.

The crazy thing is, though, God has placed Compassion right in the midst of this mess. Because of our unique church-based structure, our child development centers are distributing food and water where even relief agencies haven’t been able to access!

Families who lost their homes and have nowhere to cook are receiving hot meals at the child development centers. During the next few weeks, the centers will provide them with dry food, oral rehydration therapy and water purification tablets.

Here are a few of David’s photos. As you look at them, pray for the people in the photos and the thousands more you don’t see who are in similar desperate situations.

If you sponsor a child in Bangladesh and your child has been affected by Cyclone Aila, we will contact you as soon as we receive information about your child.

28 Comments |Add a comment

  1. monir March 27, 2010

    I am student of khulna university of bangladesh.I have taken a research on Aila and observed the misery of those area.Now try to do something for them.

  2. suzan June 29, 2009

    its a very hard time for the affected peole……..but we should make our steps forward towards the affected children for their better and bright future…………..

  3. Carol June 22, 2009

    After having just visited in the Philippines and seeing some of their desparate situations, I can only imagine what a terrible situation these people find themselves in. I am praying for them. Praise God that He has placed Compassion in such a stratigic place.

  4. Candice L June 18, 2009

    Thank you for posting this. It is heartbreaking. Praise the Lord for all of the work you are doing in Bangladesh and around the world. I will continue to pray for your important ministry — you are doing the work of the Lord in caring for his children. Thank you.

  5. Sandy June 13, 2009

    @Sara Benson – Thanks, Sara! It’s great that you are praying for Arup, my little boy in BD-313.

    I’m sure many others are doing the same…I thank you all!

  6. Becky June 9, 2009

    Hi Sarah-

    I’m glad to hear that your child is not in the affected area. Vicki’s right … if your child is affected, we will contact you as soon as possible.


  7. Vicki Small June 8, 2009

    Sarah, Compassion will contact any sponsor whose child is directly affected. Even then, it can take considerable time for the country office to determine who is affected, and how, and until the field staff knows, Colorado Springs (assuming you’re in U.S.A.) can tell you nothing. You can search the website anytime for country news and crises.

    In these cases, it’s true: No news is good news.

  8. Sarah Johnson June 8, 2009

    I sponsor a girl in Bangladesh, but her region isn’t the one badly hit. I never received any e-mail about the cyclone affecting the country, and I just happened to be looking on the website and found this. Is there any reason why a notice wasn’t sent out to sponsors about the devastating cyclone?

  9. Sara Benson June 7, 2009

    Thank you for keeping us updated and sharing with us the reality of the situation even though it has faded from the media’s eyes. I will be praying for the families. Sandy and Julie, I will be praying for your children.

  10. Julie June 3, 2009

    Thank you for all the information. I sponsor a girl at project 326. I am waiting to hear anything about how she and her family are doing. Meanwhile I have donated to the fund for this and will also send a family gift.

  11. Sandy June 3, 2009

    @Chris Giovagnoni – Thank you, Chris.

    It’s reassuring to know that such an exhaustive and individualized analysis is done to access the condition and needs of each sponsored child/family affected by this disaster. With the scope of this crisis, complicated by transportation and communication challenges, it’s understandable that information is slow in coming (slow, at least, by Western standards and my frazzled nerves!).

    Like the sponsors of all the other children affected by Cyclone Aila, I will continue to write letters and emails, and to pray for my little guy.

    And hopefully, through the mercy of God, when news comes it will be good news.

  12. Chris Giovagnoni June 3, 2009

    @Sandy – As you might imagine, in the wake of a disaster, our country staff have tremendous obstacles to overcome, quickly, after a disaster strikes. They live in the affected areas and must overcome the communication outages and transportation problems in the area, while also ensuring their families are taken care of.

    Obviously those things don’t come into play in every disaster, but it is something that can affect how quickly we can contact sponsors.

    And even in the best conditions, it takes us time to specifically assess the impact on each child, document it and forward the information to Colorado.

    Once our International Program Group receives it, the information has to be sorted and shared with each partner country so that sponsors can be contacted.

    On compassion.com, there is some information about how we respond in a crisis. This is on the page about our response being locally administered:

    This “house-to-house” analysis of children and their families occurs whenever disaster strikes where Compassion works. Compassion church partners report on each child affected. The process can take hours or days, depending on the intensity of the crisis. Compassion conducts these extensive yet rapid assessments to get an accurate view of how children are faring during the crisis.

    Once Compassion church partners complete a needs assessment, the information is relayed to our country offices. There, decisions are made on what type of response is necessary. These individual reports are essential to offering children and families relief that is specific and customized to their needs, instead of transporting general disaster supplies that may be redundant or unnecessary.”

    All of that is to say, as soon as we have specific information about how a child is affected we contact the sponsor.

  13. Sandy June 3, 2009

    @Cheryl J – Hi Cheryl–When Compassion posted the first “Advisory: Cyclone Hits Bangladesh” on Tuesday, May 26th the advisory included the Project numbers of four child development centers southwest of Khulna that were affected.

    By the second update to this advisory (June 1st), the project numbers had been editted out of the original posting.

    The Projects are:


    My little boy is in BD-313. I’m waiting and praying that he and his family are safe. I’ve sent a Family Gift to help them, but other than that I’m just waiting and praying.

    It’s an overwhelmingly sad situation.

    Chris–can info about individual children be obtained? It’s clear that he has been affected–I’d like to know to what extent.

  14. Vicki Small June 2, 2009

    @Chris Giovagnoni – Thanks, Chris!

  15. Lori June 2, 2009

    wow thank you for this information. I shared this on Facebook and stumbled it, in hopes for more prayers.

  16. Jeffrey Carpenter June 2, 2009

    When you sponsor a sweet child in a hard country, and you hear of a cataclysm like Cyclone Aila smashing into that country– you’re heart begins to race. Your mind bounces around a hundred questions: Is she OK? How’s her family? Were they even affected? My God, what about their food and water? Did their chicken survive?…

    Then you pray. You thank the Lord that this precious pre-teen girl named Sumita would have the arms of Christ– manifested by a Compassion church partner– lifting her above the floodwaters.

    You signoff this blog feeling the peace of God which surpasses all understanding…

  17. Chris Giovagnoni June 2, 2009

    @Vicki Small – I added a link in the post for you.

  18. Vicki Small June 2, 2009

    Becki, thanks for this report. I will link to it on my blog, and on FB. Yeah, it will be on FB a lot, and that’s not a bad thing.

  19. Vicki Small June 2, 2009

    Dear God. Thank you for putting Compassion in the right place to minister to these families. I know your Holy Spirit is wrapped around every child, every despairing parent, and I pray that you would make your comforting presence known to each one. Give an abundance of wisdom to the church partner and project staff, as they process this disaster.
    Chris, can you please provide a link to the photos? All I have is a black not-quite-square, with nothing to click on, move or other wise start looking at photos.

  20. Chuck Guth June 2, 2009

    My heart is broken- I am glad Compassion is assisting and my prayers are going out.

  21. Juli Jarvis June 2, 2009

    I was also saddened to see this in the news. Truly heartbreaking! I’m thankful we have ways to be of help to these people through Compassion.

  22. Chris Giovagnoni June 2, 2009

    @Amy – There is a way, but it’s out of our hands.

    Determining which children are registered in the sponsorship program is up to the ministering church partner. The church partner is in the best position to identify a child’s or family’s need and register the children.

    The church partner will also know if there are families who are are in even greater need, which sadly, is altogether possible.

  23. Amy June 2, 2009

    @Chris Giovagnoni – is there a way to get the siblings on the sponsor list, as well? Maybe as an exception to the rule?

  24. Mike Stephens June 2, 2009

    Compassion is being a cyclone of the Holy Spirit to these people! Thank you for your work!

  25. Chris Giovagnoni June 2, 2009

    @Cheryl J – The child is sponsored.

  26. Cheryl J June 2, 2009

    Thank you for keeping us informed. It would be appreciated to know which project numbers are affected. Is that on the information site? Is the child whose mother committed suicide sponsored?
    If not, can we know how to get the information on this child?

  27. Mike Stephens June 2, 2009

    It’s hard for me to relate b/c I have never even come close to losing my whole house!

  28. Amy Wallace June 2, 2009

    My heart is breaking for all of these people 🙁

    It’s in terrible situations likes these that we have to remember that God is with us through every storm life throws at us.

    I will gladly donate, and post this on my Facebook!

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