A Tale of Two Sisters, Darkness in the Eye of Cyclone Amphan

A Tale of Two Sisters, Darkness in the Eye of Cyclone Amphan
Saturday 30 May 2020

Amidst nation-wide lockdown 4 to prevent community spread of COVID-19, the coastal state of West Bengal is combating with another trauma caused due to super cyclone Amphan that had made its landfall on 20th May 2020. Despite forecast and early rescue and relocation of people to make-shift cyclone relief camps, a lot of lives were affected. A vast proportion of land has got flooded and embankments got washed out. The storm left millions homeless and the fear of losing livelihood is looming large.

In the middle of this double whammy, Save the Children’s Rapid Assessment team is on the ground providing relief to the affected families and children. During one assessment drive, the team came across two sisters at Choto Ajgora village of Sandeshkhali Block I in the North 24 Parganas district in West Bengal, India. These sisters Alya Khatoon and Tuhina Khatoon, 12 and 9 years of age, took shelter in the camp along with their parents, like many other helpless families. Both the girls are special, as they are visually challenged since birth. 

Cyclone Amphan has severely affected this family. Their house was washed away by the subsequent flood caused during the landfall of the cyclone. The family had no savings as their father, a daily wage earner, had no steady income for the past two months. When the team went for assessment, their father, Ayes Ali Molla, was in some other town in search of livelihood to support his family. Their mother, a housewife, like always stayed back to take care of the girls. 

Both the girls have never been to school, as their parents feared that they both won't be able to manage anything on their own. With no education to date, the vulnerability of these children got enhanced to a great extent, especially as they belong to a family that has little or no income back-up during the ongoing humanitarian crisis. 

Our team estimated this case and understood that the situation needed immediate intervention. After the assessment for this family was completed, our youth and child champion groups headed by our youth champion Anuyara Khatoon took it on themselves to ensure safety of the girls by keeping a close vigil. 

Our relief distribution team provided the family with dry ration along with masks and soaps. The family is now all set to receive the next set of relief distribution help by our team. Also, once things get back to normal, our teams will ensure that these girls are enrolled in school and receive the education that they deserve. 

The sisters, for whom, the world is as dark as ever, do not have an air about what is happening around, be it the COVID crisis or Cyclone Amphan making its landfall and damaging their thatched hamlet. “I am crying because my mother is crying and is saying that we have lost everything,” said little Alya cuddling the hands of her younger sister Tuhina.