Anonymous donor gives $130 million for Bangladesh cyclone recovery

The money will help build schools and storms shelters, three months after Cyclone Sidr killed more than 3,000 and left millions homeless.

Rafiqur Rahman/Reuters
Gathering: Hundreds of thousands of Muslims met for an annual festival on Feb. 1 in Bangladesh, where a cyclone last November killed 3,300 people.

An unidentified person has donated $130 million to help rebuild hundreds of schools and storm shelters that were destroyed by a cyclone along Bangladesh's southwest coast, the government said.

The anonymous donation was made through the Islamic Development Bank based in Saudi Arabia, senior finance ministry official Aminul Islam Bhuiyan announced last week.

He described it as the single largest donation ever made by an individual to Bangladesh.

Mr. Bhuiyan said the donor could not be identified because of the bank's confidentiality rules. He said there was no special cyclone relief fund set up at the Islamic Development Bank.

"It's great news for the millions of cyclone-hit people," Bhuiyan said after meeting with a team of bank officials visiting Bangladesh to discuss how the money would be spent.

Much of the money would go toward building about 500 schools and storm shelters, he said.

Tropical cyclone Sidr struck Bangladesh's southwest coast on Nov. 15, leaving more than 3,300 people dead and millions homeless.

About 1 million tons of rice, a staple food for the country, were washed away. Sidr was the worst cyclone to hit since 1991.

Bangladesh has sought $2 billion in foreign aid to rebuild homes, schools, and embankments.

So far it has received about $500 million, including the latest donation, according to officials.

A group of donors has proposed a $4 billion recovery program for Bangladesh, officials said last week.

The mission, led by the World Bank, said last November's cyclone caused economic losses worth $1.6 billion, or about 3 percent of Bangladesh's gross domestic product.

Officials said the 11 donors, including the United Nations and US Agency for International Development (USAID), handed a report to Bangladesh's interim army-backed government on Jan. 31.

It suggested that the proposed rehabilitation program be implemented in three phases.

The report – received by the government's External Resources Division – put the cost of damage to houses by cyclone Sidr at $800 million, agricultural losses at $440 million, and damage to the transport sector at $140 million.

It proposed $1.51 billion in the years 2008 to 2012, $1.39 billion from 2013 to 2017, and $1.09 billion from 2018 to 2022 for risk identification, disaster preparedness, and mitigation programs.

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