With Eid nearing fast, Haor people still reeling from food crisis

‘I am not sure if I will be able to buy clothes for my children. All I am thinking about is how to arrange the next meal’

With Eid-ul-Fitr only a week away, people of the flood-ravaged Haor areas in Sunamganj are not yet sure about how they are going to observe the festive occasion since they are still bearing the brunt of food crisis.

Many affected people say they are not getting the food that is being distributed under the Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF) programme of the government.

Earlier on April 23, the government had announced that some 335,000 families of the flood-ravaged Haor region would receive relief. Each family would get 30kg rice and Tk500 as emergency support under a 100-day scheme.

Apart from rice and cash, some 171,715 families were supposed to get relief material through the VGF and Open Market Sale (OMS) programmes.

“I am not sure if I will be able to buy clothes for my children,” said Phul Banu of Puchhna village under Tahirpur upazila. “All I am thinking about now is how to arrange the next meal as we are gripped by a severe food crisis.”

She said Eid would bring no joy to her and her children.

She is among thousands whose plan to celebrate the religious festival has been shattered due to their growing miseries caused by the food crisis. The situation is getting worse as unemployment has increased significantly in the last two and half months.

Crops in 166,612 hectares of land was inundated in the district, affecting around 300,000 farmers and causing at least Tk1,700 crore of loss.

However, a non-government estimate says 200,000 hectares of land was flooded.

Heavy rainfall in the Meghalaya hills in India from March 29 prompted the flood situation.

Currently, there are at least 300,000 people in the district who have been extremely affected by the flood. Only half of them are receiving food supplies under the VGF programme.

Laleha Khatun, also from the same village, said just four out of 72 poor families are benefiting from the programme.

Tola Mia, also from Puchha, said he witnessed many a crisis, but the prevailing one is the worst.

“There are difficulties all around. We are facing a growing crisis of food and employment here,” he said, adding that the situation is degrading with days going by.

The recent torrential rainfalls are also weighing on them heavily. Many predict that their ordeals will continue until the Boro harvesting season.

The district relief and rehabilitation office said the affected people of 11 upazilas and four municipalities will be distributed 1,594 tonnes of rice against 59,331 VGF cards before Eid.

Sunamganj Additional Deputy Commissioner Md Kamruzzaman said each of the affected families would get 10 kgs of rice.

Despite the growing crisis in Sunamganj, Finance Minster AMA Muhith on June 5 wrote to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief to stop the VGF programme.

In the letter, he mentioned that the government ran different food programmes for the poor across the country for five months every year. So, it is unnecessary to continue the VGF programme.

He said only the low price food distribution programmes would be continued instead.

Source: Dhaka Tribune


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