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Thursday, February 23, 2017
Bangladesh: receding floods leave country in chaos
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¬†Floodwaters are receding in Bangladesh after submerging nearly two-thirds of the country, but many people are still cut off and in dire need of food and clean water. The devastating floods have affected nearly 30 million people and are the worst since 1988, which left over 21 million homeless. Losses to property and infrastructure are said to be in the region of £3.9 billion. CAFOD is working through its partner, Caritas Bangladesh, who is currently providing food aid and medicines to 32,000 families in the worst affected areas. Caritas hopes to complete immediate relief distributions by 25 August when over 44,000 families will have been reached. The situation is dire. About 1.5 million people are living in 5,000 public buildings, schools and flood shelters and face acute scarcity of safe drinking water, adequate food relief and health services. Lack of food is a serious concern as Bangladesh has not had any surplus food production for 3 years and there may not be enough reserves in place to feed the population. According to the UN's World Food Programme, up to five million people may need emergency food aid. Waterborne diseases have broken out at an alarming rate as people are forced to drink unsafe water. Thousands of people are now suffering from diarrhoea, cholera, dysentery, pneumonia and scabies. There is not enough water purifying tablets or oral rehydration saline to treat the sick. Children are especially vulnerable to diarrhoea. CAFOD's Asia Programme Officer Mary Lucas said: "The suffering of people is unimaginable. Their homes are under water, while their belongings, their chickens, fish and businesses are swept away. They have had to endure crowded conditions of the shelters, with little to eat and forced to drink dirty water. There is no work and people must be worried that if they do not re-plant crops soon, there will be no harvest next year. "The people of Bangladesh need help with food, water and medicines to survive the immediate aftermath of the floods and then longer term support to re-build their homes and resume employment as soon as possible." The floods have caused massive economic damage. In the agriculture sector, losses stand at over £2 billion. The garment sector, one of Bangladesh's main export earners, has lost over £276 million. In the remotest areas, prices of all essential commodities such as rice have shot up. Most of the people are facing hunger, as there is no work. All 3,000 Caritas Bangladesh staff donated one day's salary to support the flood-affected people as a token of solidarity. Caritas is planning both short and long term rehabilitation programmes. An 'Emergency Cash for Works' plan will provide 300,000 days of work for men and women. Once the flood waters have receded, they plan to build 8,000 low cost houses. Caritas Bangladesh has increased its flood appeal to £1.6 million.
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