Proper policies needed for flood relief distribution

Super cyclone Amphan was the first to hit the coastal areas amid the deadliest coronavirus outbreak in the country. Following the two crises, a number of districts were hit by heavy floods.

This year's floods have inundated almost half of the country. The floods first hit the north, but later spread to the central regions of the country. According to official figures, 4.2 million people have been affected by the floods. Only 60,000 of them could be accommodated in different shelters. Many of the others have been forced to live in semi-submerged houses or take shelter on the embankments or high roads. Their misery knows no bounds.

What has the government done to help the millions of people affected by the floods? How many have been helped? Prothom Alo correspondent of five flood-hit districts of Jamalpur, Kurigram, Rangpur, Bogura and Sirajganj in the northern region said the picture of distribution of relief items was very disappointing.

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Very few people affected by the floods have received government relief supplies. Different private organisations and NGOs used to extend their helps in other times, but those organisations are less active this year due to the virus outbreak.

Various allegations, however, have been made about the distribution of relief in the flood affected areas. First, the areas most affected by the floods have fewer shelters.

When when only 5 maunds are distributed instead of 100 maunds, there naturally will be problems in distribution.

Second, dry food is distributed in the shelter as relief supplies while pulses and baby food with rice are distributed. In some places it is only rice. What will the people whose houses have been submerged in the flood waters do with uncooked rice? On the contrary, how long one can survive on dry food only?

Third, the list of victims is made through the UP chairman and members. They use this in their political interests. There have been serious allegations from recipients of relief materials from several districts that they received less rice than that of government directed.

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There is always shortage of relief supplies. When when only 5 maunds are distributed instead of 100 maunds, there naturally will be problems in distribution. A fixed amount of relief materials has been distributed in all the districts irrespective of the number of victims. As a result, in the districts where more people are affected, they get less.

To eradicate these irregularities, corruption and chaos with relief goods, the government should move away from the conventional distribution system and work on the basis of a sound policy. Officials from all ministries involved in the distribution of relief items, especially those from the ministry of relief and disaster management, agriculture, food and local government, should form a special cell other than holding meaningless meetings.

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That cell will make a permanent list of poor and marginalised people in flood-prone areas. The local administration will distribute relief materials on the basis of that list. Relief materials should be distributed on the basis of fair policy. Experts say the floods will be prolonged. So that has to be done now.

The authorities must ensure that there are not more shelters in relatively less affected areas and less shelters in more affected areas due to the intervention of ministers and MPs.