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UN lauds govt’s role in tackling floods

  • Diplomatic Correspondent
  • 8 July, 2022 12:00 AM
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The United Nations has lauded the government’s active role in tackling the flash floods in the country’s nine northeastern districts.          

An estimated 7.2 million people have been severely affected by the devastating flash floods in nine northeastern districts of Bangladesh, according to the UN.  

The districts are Sylhet, Sunamganj, Moulvibazar, Habiganj, Kishorganj, Netrakona, Brahmanbaria, Mymensingh and Sherpur. Among the nine districts, the five districts that have most heavily been impacted are Sylhet, Sunamganj, Moulivazar, Habiganj and Netrakona.

The flash floods have begun in May with the second wave starting from around the middle of June.

On July 2 and 3, a joint mission of the United Nations, humanitarian donors (EU, UK) and NGO partners visited the flood-affected districts of Sylhet and Sunamganj.

The mission, aiming to see the impact of and response to the floods, expressed its solidarity with those affected and offer condolences, said a joint press statement of UN Resident Coordinator, British High Commission and EU in Dhaka on Thursday.

The mission was able to see the extent of the flooding, to hear from some of the people affected, speak with key local authorities delivering the government’s response, and get a glimpse into the scale and scope of the response provided by the government and complemented by UN agencies and NGOs.

There is a large-scale coordinated response operation ongoing under the government’s strong leadership. The government has moved over 472,000 people to some 1,605 shelter centres. Many of the most vulnerable people within the communities that we spoke to have received vital food assistance, read the UN statement.

The UN and NGO partners are supporting these efforts by delivering food assistance, drinking water, cash, emergency drugs, water purification tablets, dignity and hygiene kits and education support to the affected families.

UNICEF is on the ground to protect children and to deliver safe water, nutrition and health services and supplies. UNICEF re-allocated $2.8 million of internal resources to meet the emergency needs and has provided life-saving support to nearly one million people. WFP distributed 85 tonnes of fortified biscuits to 34,000 households in three districts.

The UNFPA has provided referral support for pregnant women to access hospitals and positioned midwives to provide 24/7 emergency obstetric support. It is also operating maternity waiting homes for pregnant women while they wait for institutional delivery.

The WHO provided 250,000 water purification tablets to the affected people. Key national and international NGOs are providing vital emergency response in the most-affected areas, including provision of critical cash assistance, safe drinking water, shelter, and emergency sanitation under the government’s leadership. The government has announced welcome additional support. 

Despite these efforts, and due to the scale of the floods, there are areas that are still inaccessible – cut off from rescue or relief. Many of the elders in the communities described this flood as worse than any that they have seen in their lifetimes.

Those that have made it to the shelters as the flood waters rose, often had to pay exorbitant amounts to private boat owners, depleting savings that are now badly needed to meet basic needs. The shelters themselves remain overcrowded given the inability of most people to return home because the flood waters are receding so slowly and damage to homes is so widespread.

This has resulted in a lack of space and privacy which leaves women, girls and children particularly vulnerable. In addition, some 60,000 women in the affected areas are pregnant. Of them, some 6,500 will give birth in the next month. With primary healthcare centres submerged and non-functional, most of these women have limited or no access to healthcare.

Where water has receded somewhat, more families will return to damaged homes, other will have to rebuild from scratch. Damaged latrines and water sources will also need to be repaired. Children have lost three weeks of schooling already and their books have gotten washed away. This comes on top of the loss of schooling due to the COVID-related school closures in 2020-2021. 

The mission had the opportunity to discuss the visit with Secretary of the Bangladesh Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief Md Kamrul Hasan on Wednesday. It welcomes the Government of Bangladesh’s strong leadership on this issue.

In the face of ongoing needs and to complement the Government of Bangladesh’s ongoing efforts, the European Union allocated €1.2 million (over Tk. 11.7 crore) to humanitarian NGOs and €200,000 (over BDT 1.9 crore) through the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, the UK Government released £636,548 (over BDT 7 crore), Sweden committed 13 million SEK (over BDT 12 crore), and the United States Government through the US Agency for International Development allocated $250,000 (over BDT 2.3 crore) in emergency funding.

Lotus