Muslim countries rush relief to cyclone-hit south

Muslim countries and Islamic relief organisations have shown unprecedented solidarity with the people of Bangladesh after a devastating cyclone struck the country’s southwestern coast on 15 November, killing over 3,000 and rendering millions more homeless.

Over 80 percent of the country’s 150 million plus inhabitants are Muslim.

Saudi Arabia

Oil-rich Saudi Arabia tops the list of Muslim countries in providing relief, with a grant of US$100 million, in addition to 300 metric tonnes of food and relief supplies.

Soon after the cyclone, Saudi Ambassador Abdullah Al Obaid Al Namla informed Bangladesh that the kingdom had expressed its willingness to build an “air-bridge” of relief with Bangladesh.

“The first Saudi aircraft arrived on 26 November and the second on 29 November. Three other relief aircraft will arrive on 3, 6 and 10 December,” a spokesman for the Saudi Arabian embassy in Dhaka, told IRIN.

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According to Golam Kibria, a senior official with the Bangladesh Ministry of Food and Disaster Management, Saudi Arabia was able to respond quickly because a Saudi relief team had already been working in the country after two rounds of heavy monsoon flooding in September and October.

Apart from the Saudi donation to the government, the Saudi Red Crescent has committed to donate nearly $30 million directly to the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society.

OPEC, Gulf countries

The OPEC (Oil Producing and Exporting Countries) Fund for International Development (OFID) has made a commitment to donate $500,000 to the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society.

Kuwait and Libya donated $10 million and $1 million respectively to the Bangladesh government’s relief fund.

Iran and Qatar sent cyclone assistance to Bangladesh, while some other Muslim countries have sent assessment teams to assist in verifying the needs of those most affected.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Red Crescent Society sent aid to Bangladesh, including food, medical kits, clothes and shelters, with the Bangladesh embassy in the UAE confirming on 24 November it had received a “great response” to its appeal for help.

The Jeddah-based Organisation of the Islamic Conference has called on governments and civil bodies in its 57 member states to dispatch urgent assistance to the country.

Pakistan, Turkey

Meanwhile, Pakistan dispatched six C-130 aircraft carrying a 30-bed mobile field hospital with an army medical team of 89 doctors and nurses, medicine, medical equipment and relief goods to Bangladesh.


Photo: Shamsuddin Ahmed/IRIN
Aid, much of which came from Islamic relief agencies, being delivered by helicopter to affected areas


The mobile hospital is currently working in Patuakhali and Barguna, two of the worst affected southern districts.

The Pakistani medical teams are treating cyclone victims and distributing free medicine and would stay in the affected areas as long as they are required, a government spokesman said.

Pakistani naval ships Shahjahan and Nasr - equipped with helicopters, a medical team, medicine and medical equipment - have arrived in the port city of Chittagong.

Another shipload of food grains will be dispatched from Karachi shortly, a media release of the Pakistan embassy in Dhaka, confirmed.

Turkish Ambassador to Dhaka Ferit Ergin on 26 November handed over a cheque for $1 million to the government of Bangladesh.

Muslim aid organisations

Islamic Relief (IR) has launched a campaign to raise $6 million for Bangladesh, said Yasser Al-Tahawi, director of the IR Volunteers’ Department in the Middle East.


Photo: David Swanson/IRIN
The village of Naya Para in Barguna District was devastated by the category four storm, which killed over 3,000 and left millions homeless

IR has already remitted $1 million to its offices in Bangladesh. IR's emergency aid included food, bottled water and hygiene kits.

UK-based Muslim Aid (MA) has also spearheaded a similar fund-raising campaign aimed at providing immediate food aid, medicine and clean water.

Both IR and MA have launched online donations’ facilities on their websites.

“The Muslim brothers came up with huge relief assistance to help mitigate suffering and rehabilitate the cyclone affected people of Bangladesh,” Professor Abdur Rob, chairman of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, commented.

Devastating floods, tornadoes, and cyclones are a regular occurrence in disaster-prone Bangladesh. In 1970 a severe cyclone killed over half a million people, while another in 1991 killed over 140,000.

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