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Six months out, Bangladesh's cyclone woes unresolved

1.3 million people still live in makeshift homes, often built from cyclone debris.

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The night on which cyclone Sidr engulfed her village, Hawa Begum, seven months pregnant, grabbed her son and ran to a shelter. They survived – but her husband, daughter, and 16 other relatives didn't.

Six months after the cyclone killed nearly 4,000 people on Bangladesh's coast and left more than a million people homeless and destitute, Ms. Begum says she doesn't feel so fortunate to have made it.

Begum is one of 1.3 million survivors still living in temporary shelter as the South Asian monsoon nears.

"Where is the luck in living, if you have no income, no food, and a roof that doesn't even keep out the drizzle? When the storms start again, I will be homeless with two children," she says, gathering firewood in the yard of what used to be her house – now a makeshift squatter with walls of dried grass and a sheet of corrugated iron held up by bamboo.

Begum's situation in Bogi, one of several fishing villages hit hardest last November, illustrates a common problem in disaster recovery: Aid groups and governments can deliver emergency supplies fast, but their efforts flag before the more complex, long-term problems of massive homelessness and its economic ripple effects are resolved.

"Housing costs are large, which is one of the reasons you need a more comprehensive plan to provide materials," says Heather Blackwell, who heads the aid group Oxfam in Bangladesh.


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