Survival of natural disasters is more than a question of individual heroism. For Bangladesh, exposed to recurrent cyclones and floods, the question of how to minimize the impact of the disaster is of immediate relevance. A year ago on 29 April 1991, strong cyclonic winds and tidal bore battered the coastline of Bangladesh and dislocated its population. From Crisis to Development: Coping with Disasters in Bangladesh provides a valuable analysis of how people have learned to cope with natural disasters. In the first section, those who were directly involved with disaster management have drawn upon their experience to review the successes and lapses in the preparations for warning, relief and rehabilitation taken by the government, of community support and NGO initiatives. An attempt to highlight gender differences in the impact and response to the cyclone is based again on the actual experiences of women, both as victims and as relief workers. This volume goes beyond a cry for sympathy. In the second section, leading economists, demographers and social scientists trace the development in different sectors over the last two decades, which have improved the chances of coping. Food price stability and communication infrastructure may suggest better chances of survival. More than this the success of experimental programmes such as Grameen Bank's credit, BRAC's non-formal education and primary health care are seen as dynamic interventions to alleviate poverty. Investment in human resource development is examined from the perspective of national and donor priorities. From Crisis to Development presents a collection of incisive, analytical and thoughtful papers by a range of academics, NGO activists and policy planners which are likely to generate serious debate on development priorities which would focus on the imperatives of disaster preparedness, on the dynamics of people's participation, and on the optimum and responsible utilization of aid.
Hameeda Hossain Founder member of Ain O Salish Kendra, a legal aid/human rights organization. A freelance writer she has previously worked as an editor, at Oxford University Press. Major research on the textile history of Bangladesh. Other publications include books and articles on craft development, issues related to women's employment and gender rights. South Asian regional representative for DAWN (a third-world women's network); member of the editorial board of Contemporary South Asia, a quarterly published from Oxford.
Curently UNICEF Representative, Bangladesh, having held the same position in Uganda (1981-86) and Sudan (1986-89), Cole P. Dodge has also worked as Oxfam Field director in Bangladesh (1974-76), India, SriLanka (1978-80) and Ethiopia (1976-78) and has edited and written several books and articles.