Helena Begum said she had a single meal of 'khichuri' in the last four days until Wednesday. Flattened rice and some other dry foods were the only way to satisfy hunger in the remaining times.
Helena was one of the people who took shelter at M Saifur Rahman Degree College in Companiganj upazila of Sylhet. Some 150 families were staying at four buildings of the college until the evening. As the floodwater receded to some extent, some families left the shelter on the day.
This correspondent stayed at the shelter from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm and heard the miseries of the flood victims. Most of them received no relief from the government in the last seven days.
The college is located within half a kilometer of the Sylhet-Companigonj-Bholaganj highway. The connecting road from the highway to the college has resurfaced partially as the water was receding day by day. However, one can stride across the road with a bit of difficulty.
Lushi Kant Hajong, upazila nirbahi officer of Companyganj, told Prothom Alo on Thursday that the government reliefs were sent to the college via the local union parishad chairman. Other than this, he instructed six to eight private relief distributors to provide relief at the college shelter.
When the chairman of Telikhal union parishad, Kazi Abdul Wadud was contacted over phone, his wife Sultana AKter received the call and said he cannot talk as he fell sick while distributing relief items among the flood victims.
Eunus Ali, an office assistant of the college, said the flood victims started taking refuge at the college on 15 June. But no government relief reached the college yet.
A union parishad member provided relief -- only rice -- to some ten families at the shelter as they are from his ward, added Eunus.
This correspondent talked to some 15 families at the shelter and found that two of them managed to have cooked food on Wednesday night while seven families had dry food, including flattened rice, puffed rice, and biscuits. However, six families were starving as they did not have anything to assuage their hunger.
Some of the starving people said it is too tough for them to have a meal three times a day. The mothers were suffering the most as they had to feed the children, instead of having meals of their own. They had to starve or half-starve and arrange food for the children.
SK Roy, chairman of Bangladesh Breastfeeding Foundation and also president of Nutrition Society of Bangladesh, said a mother may produce less milk if she does not have enough nutritious food. Arrangements should be made for extra relief for the shelters that accommodate mothers and babies.
There are some lights in the outer area of the college, but the rooms have no such arrangements. This is why the rooms turn dark and murky in the evening.
Rina Begum, a flood-victim woman, was cooking something in a corner of the shelter in the dark night. The candle in her hand shed a little light, but not enough. She and her family had dinner that night, but many others were not that lucky.
When Rina was cooking food for her family members, stone worker Layek Ahmed and his wife Maryam Begum were busy giving their sick child medicine.
In a conversation with them, it was learnt that the child had been suffering from fever since Monday. When the floodwater receded to some extent on Wednesday, Layek went to a nearby market and brought the medicine from a known pharmacy without paying.
Layek said he along with the family members rushed to the shelter when the flash flood hit the area. He had only Tk 100 in his pocket.
Worries about cattle
The flood-victims are also worried about their cattle. Those who took their cattle at the shelter were spending their nights amid fear as they heard robberies to have taken place in many areas. It prompted them to remain vigilant in the nights and guard the shelter in turns.
They said their concern mounts in the night as the flooded residences are reportedly being robbed in many areas.
A certain Jannatul Jaynab was keeping a careful eye on her cattle at the shelter corridor. She was coming out of the shelter room after every 40 to 50 minutes as the fear of robbery was not allowing her to sleep.
“I cannot sleep due to worries about the cow. I heard that robberies took place in many places. This is why I am coming to see the cow frequently,” she said.