BANGLADESH: Thousands flee floods
Thousands of people in Bangladesh have sought higher ground and need food and shelter due to flooding
SATKHIRA, 22 August 2011 (IRIN) - Heavy monsoon rains have caused several major rivers in Bangladesh to burst their banks, displacing thousands and affecting nearly a million people in all, according to the country's Disaster Management Bureau (DMB
Nine river monitoring stations out of 73 operated by the Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre (FFWC
) across Bangladesh have reported dangerous water levels and another 19 say more flooding could be imminent.
A 22 August DMB assessment
warns that the Meghna, a major river, is still rising, and also predicts the rise of rivers around Dhaka will continue, though the Brahmaputra and the Ganges-Padma river systems have begun to fall.
In hard-hit Satkhira in the south, District Relief and Rehabilitation Officer Syed Shikder said 800,000 people have been affected (110,000 displaced).
"Our biggest concerns are providing the flood-affected people with safe drinking water and sanitation facilities," Shikder told IRIN.
The World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed high energy biscuits to some 60,000 displaced in Satkhira. "Food and shelter are the big problems in the immediate future," Michael Dunford, WFP Bangladesh country director, said from Dhaka. Dunford added that people in Satkhira are only just recovering from Cyclone Aila
, which destroyed more than 129,500 hectares of farmland and some 600,000 houses in 2009.
"Just before Eid, God has cursed us. The flood has washed away all our happiness," said Amena Khatun from Satkhira. "My son had three acres [1.2 hectares] of Aush and Aman rice crops and all is now under water. What will we eat now? My family will starve," she said, staring at the rice field that has now turned into a shallow lake.
Ministry of Food and Disaster Management officials in different regions across the country are reporting a similar story: marooned and displaced people, destroyed crop fields and an urgent need for food, water and shelter.
Sharafat Ali of Netrokona, northern Bangladesh, has lost all his possessions to the flood. "I released Nilotica spawn of almost US$2,600 just last month. I borrowed a lot of money for that. This flood has washed away my ponds. Not a single fish is left," he said.
Aid workers reckon the risk of disease and loss of income will prove to be the long-term challenges for those hardest hit.
"When the flood water goes down, dead plants, livestock and other perishables will start to rot and provide a thriving breeding ground for microbes responsible for water-borne diseases. That is the biggest health risk associated with flood," said Abul Quasem, an official with the Red Crescent Society Bangladesh
According to the DMB, government relief efforts are under way with 6,450 tons of rice, US$120,000 cash for flood victims, and an additional $53,000 in housing grants earmarked for distribution. However, some of those affected have reported receiving no relief aid 4-5 days after being marooned.