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Government stops relief work in flash flood-affected Haor basin

  • Published at 02:17 am July 30th, 2017
  • Last updated at 02:31 pm July 30th, 2017
Government stops relief work in flash flood-affected Haor basin
After losing their only crop in a year in unexpected flash floods in late March, people in the northeastern Haor areas were assured by the government that they will be provided food support till the next harvest. But the government has already backtracked from its promise, pushing the poor and affected people into certain starvation. Sunamganj district administration says it has already stopped food support through Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF) and Vulnerable Group Development (VGD) programmes to the affected people, as they do not have further allocation or stock. In addition, the government has stopped the Gratuitous Relief And Open Market Sale (OMS) support which was a great support for the affected people to meet their daily food needs. “We already finished the VGF support last week and we do not have instructions to continue,” said Kamruzzaman, additional deputy commissioner of Sunamagnaj, adding that they do not have the stock for further distribution. According to the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), Sunamganj lost 80-90% of its Boro paddy harvest in this year’s unexpected flash floods during late March to mid-April, about three weeks before the harvesting period. District administration data said that around 300,000 families were extremely affected by the floods. The Haor basin region in Bangladesh comprising of Netrokona, Sunamganj, Brahmanbaria, Moulvibazar, Habiganj and Sylhet districts usually cultivates one Boro paddy crop in a year. Considering the damage and the vulnerability of the people there, the government declared after the floods that the affected families will be supported with different safety net mechanisms including VGF, VGD, OMS and Gratuitous Relief till the next crop in the Haor region is harvested in April 2018. Under the VGF, a vulnerable family is supposed to receive 30kg rice and Tk500 per month. Abdul Khalek, a flood-affected farmer in Tahirpur Upazilla of Sunamganj who lost all the half-ripe paddy on 10 acres of land said: “Since April, I have received a total of 68kg rice along with Tk1,000. Now the Upazila Parishad says that it will not provide the support from next month.” If the support is discontinued, there will be no option for his family except but to go hungry, he added. Haor-relief-2
In addition to VGF, the government had introduced an increased number of OMS selling points so that the affected people can get easy access to food. The prices of per kilogram of rice and wheat flour at an OMS point are Tk15 and Tk17 respectively, while the market prices are much higher. But the locals said that the OMS support also been stopped just one month after the floods. Sunamganj district administration data said that around 300,000 families were affected in the floods but its support goes to only 168,000 families. The rest of the victims had to get support from different non-government and voluntary agencies. “As we could not reach everyone, we tried to accommodate the rest through food and cash support coming from different non-government agencies,” ADC Kamruzzaman said. A similar situation prevails in the other flash flood-affected districts, as there is no government decision to continue the support. Although flash floods are usual in the region during April and May due to the high rainfalls upstream in the Indian state of Meghalaya, this year it happened unexpectedly early, as the Boro farmers were waiting for the paddy to ripen. Boro is the major crop in the Haor region as the entire area is underwater for at least seven months a year. According to the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE), Boro - the major paddy in Bangladesh – supplies highest 19 million tons of the 34 million-ton annual rice production in the country. Of the 4.7 million hectares on which Boro was cultivated this year, 1 million hectares were in the Haor region. Of which around 8 to 900,000 hectares went under water in the floods. The government was caught unawares by this crisis, and has scrambled to make massive rice imports  over the last few months.