Rehabilitate people of the devastated coastal area

Cyclone Yaas has devastated the coastal area to a large extent, even though it didn’t hit Bangladesh directly. Houses, croplands and shrimp enclosures sustained more damage in areas particularly where embankments broke or where there were no embankments. It is essential for relief materials to quickly reach the affected people.

State minister for disaster management and relief Enamur Rahman on 26 May said people living in 27 upazilas of nine districts -- Satkhira, Khulna, Bagerhat, Pirojpur, Barguna, Patuakhali, Bhola, Noakhali and Lakshmipur -- have been affected by the impact of Cyclone Yaas. He said an allocation of 16,500 packets of dry and other food has been made as humanitarian assistance for the affected.

The amount of relief materials provided by the state minister is inadequate. According to the reports of Prothom Alo correspondents, thousands of people are trapped, surrounded by water the in coastal area. Thousands are displaced from their homes. How many people will receive this inadequate assistance? Though cyclone Yaas didn’t hit directly, the storm surge inundated vast areas. The tide surged through all areas stretching from Satkhira to St. Martin's Island. Many people haven't been able to return to their homes. Arrangements will have to be made to help them return home immediately.

Assistance of local representatives, civil society and NGO's can be taken to assess the damage, instead of just depending on administration. The ultra poor face more damage in natural disasters. Cyclones destroy their homes, the high tide submerges their houses. Even the little food they have is also washed away. As a result, it is necessary to give priority to them during relief distribution and rehabilitation.

The government of India's state of West Bengal allocated 10 billion (1,000 crore) rupees for the cyclone-affected people. They faced more damage there. Their chief minister Mamata Banerjee ordered affected people to be provided with food at their doorstep and this is being done. Even if we can’t provide the affected people with food door to door in Bangladesh, we have to ensure that no one is deprived when they come to the government facilities.

The government will have to pay attention to rehabilitation after the distribution of emergency relief. They will also have to remain alert against the spread of disease in the affected areas after the water recedes.

Many of those who had been affected by the cyclones Aila and Sidr before Amphan, haven’t been rehabilitated as yet. Broken embankments were not mended either. The local economy is almost at a standstill because of damages to the shrimp enclosures and cropland. Economic activities will have to be boosted in the coastal areas. Most of the people living in coastal areas are poor. They don’t have any such savings that will tide them over for the next two or three months. Employment must be generated. Programme under the government’s social safety net will have to be strengthened too.

Local administration and public representatives have more responsibility in this regard. Assistance will have to be given to the worst affected before anything else.