Sunday, August 17, 2008

Blankets and poverty

(The following article is a reprint from Daily Star.)

Poverty talks about cold facts and the cold wave is one to reckon with.

Nearly a hundred thousand blankets (1 lakh) were estimated handed out to cold-hit victims all over the country by well-meaning organizations and commercial firms. Private companies can only serve limitedly and millions more living below the poverty line are in need of blankets and winter clothes to fight the cold.

This cry for blankets just speaks of one thing -- Poverty. It speaks of people who are unable to buy the basic needs in order to survive during such recurring climatic change.

This leaves the government to consider what responsive programs it can do to curb cold-related deaths and sicknesses, directly and in its long-term poverty alleviation programs since its 140 million people where an estimated 50% live below the poverty line.

Similarly, the cold wave sends a message to organizations as well to come up with disaster management plans and relief missions to be done earlier to avert preventable deaths and diseases such as those aggravated by the cold.

The cold wave which registered its lowest at 6.5 Celsius has hit hundreds of people in the country especially in the north. It is a recurring phenomenon year after year. And annually, people, especially young children and the elderly are most struck with this climatic change. Reports say that already nearly 200 persons died of cold-related causes while hundreds are being admitted in hospitals due to cold-linked illness.

Health complexes are filled with victims of the cold wave especially children with respiratory related diseases such as pneumonia while the elderly are mostly hit by hypertension and heart diseases.

Here in Rajshahi Medical Hospital, The Daily Star reports say that more than 300 patients are undergoing treatment and the number of admission exceeded last 3 year's records. The situation is getting worse as more patients from the northern districts are arriving for their admission.

Organizations, it has been noted, have conducted their own relief missions for their own beneficiaries while other commercial firms have responded in wider scale to this call for blankets and winter clothes.

Dutch Bangla Bank Limited distributed 20,000 blankets to those struggling with the cold in the northern districts of Panchagarch,Thakurgaon, Dinajpur, Lalmonirhat, Kurigram, Nilphamari, Gaibanda, Joypurhat, Bogra and Sirajjanj. Grameen Phone also recently distributed winter clothes and blankets to indigent people of Kamrangir Char in Dhaka.

The NGOs could only respond with whatever resources they have for their respective beneficiaries. And NGOs, which could only rely on support from donors, could only provide based on programmed systems leaving a lot more people needing help.

In their limited capacities, some non- government organizations like Kakonhat upazila based Adibahi Sangkrutik Unnayan Sangstha (ASUS) and Rajshahi-based Adivasi Unnayan Songstha (AUS) also very recently distributed blankets and clothes for their beneficiaries who are mostly Adivasis living in Kakonhat, Godagari and Tanore upazillas.

While relief is not a programmed activity of said Adivasi- based NGOs, AUS for one went to seek the support of neighbors, relatives and friends. Staff of Dhaka-based Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO) donated cash to AUS and this utilized on blankets distributed last January 17 to AUS' Adivasi- beneficiaries in Tanore upazilla.

Read more in Daily Star

No comments: