Three months after the devastating flash floods in the Haor basin region of Sunamganj, many people are still waiting for aid to reach them.
Locals blame the delay on nepotism by local government officials and a lack of funding from the government.
“Because we have no emergency funds, when the yearly flash floods happen we cannot provide the kind of instant support people need,” said Azahar Ali, the chairman of Bordol Union Parishad under Tahirpur Upazilla of Sunamganj.
The UP chairman said the emergency funds are first needed to quickly rebuild the crop protection embankments when they start to break.
“But because the money comes from the Upazilla Parishad or District Office that does not have an emergency funds we cannot first take preventive measures or attend to those who have been affected by the floods immediately,” he said.
Pronoti Saha from Borogaon village in Sunamganj claimed her family only received one aid instalment of 10kgs of rice during the entire relief work that has been continuous since the flash floods in April.
“The relief goes where they (UP members) have their voter base,” the 55-year-old said.
Tahirpur Upazilla chairman, Kamrul Hasan, described such incidents as “rare”, but conceded they can happen in remote areas.
“It is unacceptable that UP members are trying to only provide aid to areas that serve as their voter bank,” he said.
The Haor basin experiences yearly flash floods and covers Netrokona, Sunamganj, Brahmanbaria, Moulvibazar, Hobignaj and Sylhet.
The people of the region are heavily reliant on the cultivation of one agricultural crop: Boro paddy. However, according to the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), 90% of the Boro paddy in Sunamganj district was destroyed this year because of the unexpected flash floods in April, which happened three weeks before the harvest was due.
Considering the damage caused and the area’s vulnerability, the government has declared that affected families will be supported by different safety net mechanisms including Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF), Vulnerable Group Development (VGD), Open Market Sale (OMS) and Gratuitous Relief, until the next Haor basin harvest in April 2018.
Under the VGF, a vulnerable family is supposed to receive 30Kgs of rice and Tk500 a month.
Tahirpur Upazilla Parishad chairman told the Dhaka Tribune that creating emergency funds for the Union Parishad is necessary as they are the primary respondents during a disaster.
“This will make their emergency response quicker and have them make important decisions in time that can save lives,” he said.
Additional Deputy Commissioner of Sunamgnaj district Kamruzzaman said: “Usually, the Union Parisahd is supposed to have a emergency fund by raising money. But some of them cannot do that because they do not have their own source of income such as tax, etc.”