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10 million people to get food aid across Bangladesh during Eid amid pandemic

  • Published at 11:41 pm July 7th, 2020
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File photo: An old woman sits in queue to collect government aid Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

This is the largest allocation order under the VGF program so far

The government has decided to distribute free rice to more than 10 million vulnerable people across the country before and during the upcoming Eid-ul-Azha holidays, amid the Covid-19 pandemic that is battering the economy. 

“It is the largest allocation of aid in a single order under the VGF (Vulnerable Group Feeding) program so far,” said Disaster Management and Relief Ministry Secretary Md Mohsin.

The government aid will amount to 100,068 tons of rice for 10,006,869 people (or over 10 million) beneficiaries under the VGF program. Each of them will get 10kgs rice.

The ministry on Tuesday sent an order to the director general of the Disaster Management Department in this regard, issuing the necessary instructions.

According to the order, 87,792 tons of rice has been allotted to 8,779,203 VGF cardholders for distribution in 64 districts, and 12,276 tons of rice for 1,227,666 cardholders in 328 municipalities under three — A, B and C — categories.

The order instructed the deputy commissioners (DCs) of the districts to collect the aid by July 28 and inform local MPs about the aid allocation.

The government usually allocates this type of aid under the VGF program on all religious festivals, including Eid and Durga Puja. Also, victims of natural disasters, such as flood and cyclone victims, and fishermen during fishing bans, are given such aid.

“We have taken the initiative so that none of these people remain unfed during Eid. The people affected by floods, and marginalized people hit by other natural disasters, will be given priority for this aid,” Mohsin told Dhaka Tribune. “But, all people distressed by the pandemic will also get the support.”

He added that they have categorized the beneficiaries in three groups that may help the DCs prepare a proper list of vulnerable people who need the aid.

The conditions

With Tuesday’s order, the ministry also set 12 conditions to select people who would be eligible to receive aid.

The conditions say a family will be eligible if (it): 1. owns no land other than a homestead 2. is dependent on daily wage income 3. is dependent on the income of a female worker or upon begging 4. has no earning adult male member 5. is a family where a school-going child has to work to earn a living; 6. has no breadwinner; 7. head of the family is an abandoned, widowed or divorced woman; 8. head of the family is an indigent freedom fighter 9. the head of the family is indigent and disabled 10. The family did not receive any microcredit 11. the family was hit by a natural disaster and is in dire need of food or money, and 12. family members do not get food aid twice a year for most of the year.

According to the order, those who fall under four of the 12 conditions will be eligible for aid.

The list will be prepared and sanctioned by union or municipal VGF committees, while government authorities concerned will deliver the rice and bear the expenses.

Authorities have also been instructed to make sure that only one member of a family gets aid under the program.

Other support

On May 14, the government inaugurated a cash aid program for five million people in distress because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

More than three million listed people made vulnerable by the pandemic have already received the monetary support. The distribution process for giving the money to another two million people is underway.

The Finance Division in an order recently said that listed people will have to open a Tk10 bank account with the recommendation of their upazila nirbahi officer (UNO) to get the money.

The division’s Joint Secretary, Shirajun Noor Chowdhury, told Dhaka Tribune: “The listed families mostly received Tk2,500 through mobile financial services. But many people are yet to get the money due to some challenges and unavoidable reasons.”

“We have already issued an order to deposit the money to these people’s bank accounts,” he said.

“However, until the process is completed, the government will not start the second phase,” Shirajun added.

Apart from this, the government is continuing relief distribution as part of its humanitarian assistance to mitigate people’s sufferings in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the flooding in different districts.   

Around five million people will get one kg rice at Tk10 only under the Vulnerable Group Development (VGD) program amid the pandemic.

Until Tuesday, 211,017 tons of rice were allocated as relief, and of that, 198,120 tons were distributed among more than 73.8 million people from over 16.8 million families across 64 districts, according to an official handout.

The government has also so far allocated nearly Tk123 crore in cash for distribution among the people, as cash assistance and for purchasing baby food and other food items.