Govt says it has helped millions of people but victims say they're struggling to get by
A Bangladeshi villager sits by his flooded home in the southwestern district of Jessore on Aug. 22, 2016. Millions are still reeling from this year’s extreme monsoons. (Photo by Stephan Uttom/ucanews.com)
Weeks after devastating floods affected millions and killed more than 100 people in Bangladesh, many families are still reeling from a lack of aid as the country suffers an outbreak of waterborne diseases.
Monsoon flooding in nearly half of the country’s districts (28 out of 64) affected more than seven million people, left tens of thousands of houses uninhabitable and destroyed crops over vast areas.
During the week-long floods, at least 114 people died due to drowning, landslides, lightning strikes, snakebites and water-borne diseases, while about 14,000 became ill from various diseases including diarrhea, skin problems, eye inflammations and respiratory tract infections, according to government data.
The emergency eased somewhat in recent weeks thanks to a respite from the torrential monsoon rain and a receding of water levels in all major rivers in the country, according to the Bangladesh Meteorological Department.
The government and aid groups distributed relief supplies in various places but many victims say the support was not enough.
Jamal Khan, 40, a father of three from the flood-affected Belkuchi area in the northern district of Sirajganj, said his family was struggling to get back to normal.
“The government handed out some food and a charity [Caritas] also offered food and cash, but the aid was not enough,” Khan, a Muslim, told ucanews.com. “My wife, son and I have been struggling maintain the family by working as day laborers but after flooding there is less opportunity to find work.”
There was also an outbreak of waterborne diseases in the area, with a shortage of medical support, he said.
Due to river erosion and repeat flooding of Jamuna River, Khan and his family have lost their home seven times in the past 20 years.
“Poor people like us desperately need food, medicine and money to survive, and to get back to a normal life,” he added.
Government ‘has given aid to millions’
Shahdat Hossain, director general of the state-run Disaster Management Department, said the government had provided aid to millions of flood-affected people and was continuing to rehabilitate the victims.
“As of now, the government has distributed more than 28,350 metric tons of rice, 50 million taka (US$ 592,778) in cash, 54,000 bundles of canned food, 117,000 cartons of dried food, about 8,500 sets of tents and an additional 16.3 million taka for house-building as primary relief support,” Hossain told ucanews.com.
“An assessment of the total flood damage and people’s needs is due to be completed this month and then we will undertake the second phase of aid for affected people.”
In addition, 23 government ministries were working to design a comprehensive flood mitigation program in districts prone to annual flooding and other natural disasters, he said.
This year’s floods happened unusually quickly, so the extent of the destruction was higher, said Sukleash George Costa, regional director of the Catholic charity, Caritas Rajshahi.
“Both the government and aid groups struggled to respond to flooding because flood water increased so swiftly, so people were seriously affected, roads, crops and houses destroyed,” Costa said. “Caritas Rajshahi was able to assist 400 affected families with food and cash.”
In the Bandarban district of the southeastern Chittagong Hill Tracts, one of the worst-hit areas, Caritas Chittagong distributed the equivalent to US$59 to each of 2,100 families as “unconditional emergency aid.”
Caritas has appealed for donors ahead of the next round of funding for the rehabilitation of flood victims and plans to take up support projects once funds are secured, Costa said.
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