Friday, November 14, 2008

Relieving hunger for flood victims

(The following story is a reprint from Daily Star)

For some 6 million flood-hit victims facing severe food shortage in 47 districts of the country, food relief is essential.

In the northern rice producing districts, hit by flood for the past three weeks, the demand for food is high and will last for at least two months after the floodwaters recede, especially in areas near the Jamuna river.

Here, at Taras upazilla of Sirajganj district, nearly 4 lakh people who rely on farming as their major source of livelihood could only eat once a day due to loss of work. Most of the population here are farm workers, earning Taka 80 to 90 per day, and not going to work means no pay and no Taka. This means hunger and further suffering for family members.

Rehka Boshak, an Adivashi here at Taras, said her family ate once a day for the past month when the floods submerged her village knee-deep. Because her husband was not able to go to work for a month, they had to take loan from micro-credit organizations in order to get by. And until now, they are still repaying the loan.

"With the relief food that we have received, we could at least save a little money and be able to pay back what we have borrowed," she said.

Farm-worker adivashis

Rekha's is one among 550 Adivashi families who were given relief goods consisting of 5 kg rice, 2 kg potato, ½ kg dal, 1 kg salt, and saline packets for each family by Bangladesh Adivasi Ohdikar Andolon (Baoa) and Volunteer Service Overseas- Bangladesh (VSOB) on September 3.

The Taka3.3 lakh relief fund was sourced from donors as advertised through a website designed by VSOB volunteer Mikey Leung, amounting to Canadian $3,450, £ 500 from VSO Trusty Board-UK, Taka 11,000 from Dinajpur-based Gram Bikash Kendro (GBK), and the rest from Baoa-Regional Development Center. GBK is a programme partner of VSOB's indigenous community rights programme.

In Desigram union of Taras, relief work was done in partnership with Taras-based Adivashi Academy, an organizational partner of Baoa. Jogen Toppo of the management committee of Adivashi Academy said that they based their identification of beneficiaries on the state of severity of flood in the community, landlessness of the household, and the elderly and widowed.

With limited relief goods, beneficiaries were selected from adivashi residents coming from 50 villages/grams located in 8 unions of Desigram, Mathanugor, Taras Proper, Talong, Barobash, Naoga and Magwabirod.

At least 30,000 adivashis including Mahato, Orao, Singh, Maldi and Boshak, live in the borderlines between Sirajganj and neighbouring Bogra. The majority of them are day labourers, and relies on farming as their source of livelihood.

Read more in Daily Star

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