Survival after Cyclone Amphan

Survival after Cyclone Amphan – The Story of an Elderly Couple

“We knew the cyclone would hit, like it does every year, like last year’s Bulbul, but no one thought it would get this bad.” – A resident in Kolkata.

Termed a “super cyclone,” Amphan devastated thousands in India. It ravaged the Sundarbans, a mangrove area around the India-Bangladesh border, before moving towards Kolkata in India.

There was widespread destruction in the wake of Cyclone Amphan: electricity in the region was utterly cut off, water sources were polluted, fields were destroyed and left non-arable due to salination by seawater, and many houses were badly damaged. The conjunction of two disasters—COVID-19 and Cyclone Amphan—severely hindered emergency and relief efforts. Health services were severely affected and inoperative. COVID-19 and social-distancing measures made mass evacuations more complex, with shelters unable to be used to total capacity. CBM India and its long-standing partners—Sundarban Social Development Centre (SSDC) and The Leprosy Mission Trust India (TLMTI)—provided relief aid to those affected by the cyclone.

Project Udhaan supported over 4210 households in Nizam and Hingalganj blocks of Parganas, West Bengal, with dry ration kits, mosquito nets, and solar lamps. Mothers and expectant mothers were provided with nutritious food kits, households with cooking utensils, and women with sanitary napkins. Project Udhaan reached 400+ persons with disabilities with relief aid and referrals for other rehabilitation services.

CBM made a lasting difference in the lives of Mrs and Mr Patra in Durbachati village in Kolkata. 80-year-old Narayan Patra is a frail dada who needs the help of his wife, Renuka Patra, who is 72 years old, to eat and walk. They live with their 40-year-old unmarried daughter, Kanchan Patra, in a small house with a straw roof. The eldest and the youngest daughters are married and live separately.

Mrs Renuka Patra, the family’s sole breadwinner, goes door-to-door, selling betel leaves for a living. She earns approximately INR 200-300 per month. In addition, Mr Patra receives a monthly pension of INR 1000 from the West Bengal Old Age Pension Scheme.

Cyclone Amphan blew away the Patra family’s thatched straw roof. Their small kitchen roof collapsed in front of their eyes. Even though the panchayat warned them, they were not prepared enough. After the horrible devastation, all three family members left their house and took shelter in a nearby pucca house. They received a tarpaulin as a temporary roof from another welfare organisation. Mrs. Patra hopes to get assistance to rebuild their damaged home.

Life had become miserable for Mrs Patra with the huge decline in selling betel leaves. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, her regular customers asked her not to come anymore. The family is fully dependent on the Old Age Pension Scheme that Mr Patra receives. They are relieved by the one-month dry ration and are thankful to CBM, and the Cognizant Foundation for the support extended.

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