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Photo : The New Nation

Govt plans to feed 20m flood-hit people Under VGF till Dec 2004

Wednesday August 04 2004 00:10:17 AM BDT

The government plans to feed some 20 million people on rations till December as they have been hardest hit in the devastating floods that washed away crops and wrecked infrastructures across the country, reports UNB.

Food and Disaster Management Minister Chowdhury Kamal Ibne Yusuf on Tuesday said the poor and distressed people would be supplied food under the Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF) programme until the next harvest.

And there will be food-for-work scheme simultaneously to help the flood-affected people as well as mend the damage done by one of the worst floods in this country, he told journalists.

“Inshallah, there will not be any famine or death due to starvation…We will bring one crore to two crore people under the VGF programme from our own resources--and if necessary, it will be extended,” the Food and Disaster Management Minister disclosed.

At a briefing with Overseas Correspondents Association Bangladesh (OCAB) at the National Press Club on the flood situation, he said the government would seek precise help from donors and international agencies for post-flood rehabilitation after completion of the assessment with the floodwater receding.

The Minister could not say the exact extent of damage to crops and infrastructures in terms of money since he said the government as well as UN teams are at work reckoning the losses. Two UN teams are already here and more will be coming for the need assessment, which may be completed next week.

Chowdhury said although the government did not launch any international appeal for relief, but any relief assistance from international community would be welcome.

In reply to a question, he said no international agency had given any relief material to date. They have only made commitments, but nothing has come yet. “ If there is something that’s like a little drop,” he said.

The government has distributed 45,000 tons of rice from its own coffers to the flood victims. Apart from VGF, the government also plans an early start of the Food for Works programme, which usually begins in November, he said.

About his previous estimation of damages worth Tk 40,000 crore (aprx USD 6.6 billion), the Minister said that was just a rough assessment--it may be Tk 30,000 crore to Tk 40,000 crore, or maybe more.

Chowdhury disagreed that there are some deaths out of starvation in the total casualty figure of 589 recorded till Monday. “ I’ve not heard of it, I can’t believe it-- all deaths were caused by flood-related reasons like drowning or snakebite, none from starvation,” he told a questioner.

The Minister gave 100 percent assurance that nobody would starve, and, if needed, three crore people would be covered by the VGF scheme. He said the Finance Minister committed Tk 3 crore more for the relief operation.

He admitted that a large number of people have been affected by diarrhoea, but said the government has enough medicine to get to grips with the situation. He said post-flood diarrhoea is a common phenomenon and there is nothing to worry.

The Minister told a questioner that the current flood situation has not gone to such a stage as would call for declaring the country as disaster area.

He, however, feared a colossal damage if the floods made a comeback and hit the country mid-August in the relapse—a foreboding by some flood experts.

In reply to a question, the Minister said the extent of damage could be reduced if prior flood warnings could be received. He is not aware if the government had received forewarning from India but rejected the report that the government had received such forecast from the United States.

Chowdhury observed that regional cooperation involving the riparian countries--Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Bhutan--is essential for effective flood management in the region.

Huge waters from upstream the Himalayan river system roll down the delta of Bangladesh into the Bay of Bengal and so managing the problem calls for regional approach.

OCAB president Mokhlesur Rahman Chowdhury chaired the briefing session while general secretary Shamim Ahmad gave vote of thanks.



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