A Caritas worker registers flood victims for aid in Cox's Bazar district. (Photo courtesy of Caritas Chittagong)
Catholic charity Caritas has started offering cash handouts to help and rehabilitate thousands of families badly affected by recent flooding in Bangladesh.
Some 4,062 families in Bandarban and Cox's Bazar districts, two of the worst-affected areas in southeastern Bangladesh, will receive 6,000 Taka (US$ 77) each from Caritas Chittagong, the regional branch of the Church's social service agency.
The distribution of aid totaling US$288,487 started on Sept. 11.
"Half the money has already been distributed to victims through mobile banking services and the rest will be given through a 'cash for work' system. Different people have different needs, so we have decided to offer cash so that they use it as they need," said James Gomes, regional director of Caritas Chittagong.
"About 298,550 people have been affected by flooding in our area, but we can't help all as our funds are limited. We have tried to figure out who the most affected people to offer aid to are," he added.
Muhammad Yunus said his family has already received Caritas aid.
"Flooding destroyed our house and inundated a fish farm I set up with a loan. I have not received any government or NGO aid except from Caritas," said Yunus, a father of four from Pekua sub-district of Cox's Bazar.
"With the money, I bought food and utensils. Now, I'm trying to make my damaged house livable again," Yunus added. "My biggest challenge is to repay the loan I took out for fish cultivation."
Despite massive devastation caused by floods, aid from authorities and nongovernmental organizations has been scarce, said Shafayat Aziz, chairman of Pekua sub-district council.
"About 90 percent of people in our area have been affected by flooding, but the government has only offered dried food so far," said Aziz.
"Usually, government aid takes time to arrive as it requires authorities to assess the number of affected people and type of aid needed," he added.
Located on the world's largest river delta system that empties into the Bay of Bengal, natural disasters like flooding, tidal surges and cyclones are common in Bangladesh, an impoverished Muslim-majority South Asian nation of 160 million.
Flooding over the last three months has affected 3.4 million people in 20 districts, while 21 people have been killed by drowning and in landslides, according to local media reports.