NGO's Continuing to Provide Aid to Flood Victims in Bangladesh, India

( [email protected] ) Jul 30, 2004 07:00 PM EDT

For the second consecutive day, rivers in many parts of flood-ravaged Bangladesh have slowly receded, but sources say that the threat of further rain in Bangladesh or India could raise water levels again. Meanwhile, the government of Bangladesh, at first reluctant to accept outside aid, has asked for international help to cope with the aftermath of the monumental flooding that has left hundreds dead and millions homeless, marooned, or at risk of water-borne diseases.

While flooding is common in Bangladesh and India during the monsoon season, this year's flooding has been reported as the worst since 1988. And it's expected that the situation could deteriorate even further once the monsoon is fully underway from late July onwards.

So far flooding in Bangladesh has affected 40 of 64 Districts, resulting in the death of 1,300 people, and leaving 2.5 million people in the capital stranded.

The Government of Bangladesh and NGOs have responded quickly to get food and supplies to affected areas. But NGOs are now beginning to run low on resources and need more support.

Bangladeshi Food Minister Kamal Inbe Yusuf said Bangladesh could provide food and shelter to millions of its homeless. "But we will need massive assistance for the post-flood rehabilitation in all sectors devastated by the floods," he said, referring to the damaged infrastructure.

Britain has been one of the quickest and biggest supporters in disasters in Bangladesh, providing £10 million ($18.2 million) immediately. According to the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the money has been channeled through the UN, the World Food Program (WFP) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and is being used for immediate relief (food, medicines, shelter, clean water, and other essential supplies) and longer-term reconstruction and restoration of livelihoods. The UN are themselves working through NGOs such as Save the Children, Oxfam, and Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC).

"We stand ready to support the Government of Bangladesh and the UN on the work that will be required on recovery and rehabilitation," the DFID stated. "Britain recognizes and applauds the efforts and contributions that have been made by the Government of Bangladesh in response to the disaster. We will work through and alongside the Government as appropriate."

On July 26, Gareth Thomas, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for International Development, said: "The £10 million we are giving will help provide emergency food, shelter, medicines, clean water and other essential supplies. The UK is concerned about the deteriorating flood situation in Bangladesh, and stands ready to assist, in support of the effective systems rapidly mobilized by the Government of Bangladesh, to reduce the impact of the floods on those affected. When the waters recede there will be a great need for recovery assistance to enable those affected by the flood to restore their livelihoods. The UK stands ready to provide further support for post flood recovery."

DFID has already provided structural and funding assistance to strengthen the capacity of agencies such as WFP to co-ordinate disaster relief work so that they are able to respond rapidly to situations such as the current floods problem.

Meanwhile, in the West, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has pledged $210 million for rehabilitation, and groups such as Washington-based World Vision and Arizona-based Food for the Hungry continue to send relief supplies to several affected areas.

Food for the Hungry, which sponsors children in several Bangladesh communities, sent a relief team, and conducted search, rescue and recovery operations within 48 hours of the flood along with its partners. They are also distributing relief packages to 1,000 families in child-sponsorship areas.

World Vision is distributing relief supplies in three of its sponsorship communities in the flood-ravaged Assam region of India: Dhemaji, Amri, and Udalguri. Around six thousand families have received food, temporary shelter, and medical care. World Vision will provide food and medical assistance to 20,000 families in the next month.

Paul Touthang, World Vision's program manager in India, says, "With limited resources, we are doing our best to meet [people's] needs. But many more people are in need of support."

A spokesman for the World Food Program said the UN agency was assessing Bangladesh's needs before approving aid. The floods are estimated to have caused damages worth $6.67 billion, particularly to infrastructure and agriculture.