CURRENT FLOOD SITUATION
Floodwaters are rising in the central and southern districts of Bangladesh as they fall in the north-eastern and north-western districts, with the water gradually draining into the Bay of Bengal. Districts near the confluence of the Jamuna (Brahmaputra) and Padma (Ganges), the Surma and the Meghna, and the Padma and the Meghna Rivers, including Dhaka, are particularly threatened by rising water. Any further heavy monsoon rainfall in these major river basins within Bangladesh or upstream in the Indian states of West Bengal, Assam and Meghalaya, will cause another round of flooding across the country, prolonging their duration and significantly increasing their overall impact and the cost and time for recovery. A further complication is the high tides associated with the next full moon (on 1/2 Aug), which will limit overall outflow from the country.
The effects of the flood on the population throughout the 31 districts assessed, both rural and urban, have been devastating. With almost three-quarters of the country under-water in this land-scarce country, this has had a direct or indirect impact on all the population. The primary impact remains the displacement from homes and villages, due to the rising water. Bangladesh's low ground-level means that some entire villages, towns and occasionally cities (such as Sylhet) were submerged with water -- forcing the population to seek refuge in emergency shelters, or on higher ground.
While the regularity of the floods result in much of the population having certain coping mechanisms to deal with the flood, the severity of these floods, combined with the prospect of a prolonged period, will result in even greater hardship and suffering.
The greater need of assistance by the affected population leads to most displaced people having to sell their assets in order to survive. Examples of this include having to sell whatever crops are in cultivation, before they are destroyed by the floods, or selling jewellery and other assets in order to buy food and medicines. While this helps in surviving in the short-run, it will represent enormous difficulties in rebuilding their livelihoods in the immediate post-flood periood and beyond.
The higher water and the displacement from the homes also results in serious health problems that have been reported in the DER assessments: diarrhoea, snakebites, pneumonia, drowning and also other diseases associated with bad sanitation. This is occurring both in rural and urban areas.
The assessments have also reported cases of harassment in some of the flood shelters where women have sought refuge. Protection is an issue that needs to be addressed throughout all stages of the relief and the rehabilitation.
Hundreds of thousands of homes have been completely washed away or partially damaged. Other buildings, like schools and religious institutions have also been severely affected by the floods, with many of them being submerged, damaged, or occupied by flood-affected people. Repair and reconstruction of damaged houses is a critical part of the process of restoration of flood victims' livelihoods, so that communities get back to previous levels of income once the waters recede.
Road communications between villages and towns, as well as inter-city communications have been submerged in the most severely affected districts. Many locations are now only accessible by road and the electrical power network has also been affected in many areas. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of tube wells have been inundated cutting access to safe water for many people. There is an immediate need for large quantities of water purification tablets, Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) and bleaching powder disinfectant.
RESPONSE TO DATE
The Government of Bangladesh (GoB) has activated its Standing Orders on Disaster in response to the growing expectation of a big flood. The National Disaster Management Council, led by the Prime Minister, have begun meeting on a regular basis to assess the situation of the floods and decide on the national response. A central Emergency Operation Centre has been set up in the capital that consolidates information from all Districts of Bangladesh. The Government also continues to welcome any international assistance provided and encourage the UN and the NGO community to support their relief and, particularly, recovery and rehabilitation efforts.
Disaster Management Committees have been convened at the District, Thana and Union level. The mechanism allows for emergency relief from the central government to be distributed to the most needy and the relocation of displaced families to flood shelters where they will be assisted. These committees lead the distribution of relief items and, where possible, coordinate the local and international NGOs in situ. In terms of figures, as of 25 Jul 04, the government had distributed 29,000 MT of rice to affected families out of their emergency buffer stock of 100,000 MT.
Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)
Local and international NGOs have been closely monitoring the situation in their respective area of operations and expertise. To date, most NGOs have diverted their regular programme monies in support of relief operations, whilst continuing to discuss further funding opportunities with the international donors and UN Agencies. The matrix of DER Sub-group members' ongoing response at Annex K provides more details.
The United Nations system has been actively seeking to support the Government in its efforts to respond to the flood-affected populations. The Resident Coordinator a.i. activated the UN Disaster Management Team on 18 July 2004 in order to coordinate the UN response. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has also deployed a mission to assist the DMT in its strategy to tackle the ongoing crisis.
At the same time, the UN Agencies such as WFP, WHO, UNICEF, FAO and others have provided the Government with essential supplies such as water purification tablets, medicines, bleaching powder. Additionally, the UN Agencies closely support the monitoring efforts of the relevant government ministries. Further details of the Agency activities (even through international and local NGO partners) are available in the individual district RENA forms.
The UN Agencies plan to launch an international appeal for assistance in the coming ten days in order to support the Government of Bangladesh in its relief and recovery efforts. Further details of this appeal will be available shortly.
The International Community
There is considerable attention from the international community and concern about the impact of the floods on the people of Bangladesh. Donors in-country have been in contact with NGOs and the UN, and through the DER, to keep abreast of developments and stand ready to assist the Government of Bangladesh and civil society to help the affected populations. The Finance Minister is scheduled to meet donors in the near future, and the Government will continue to liaise with all development partners.
PROJECTED EVOLUTION OF THE EMERGENCY
Any further heavy monsoon rainfall in these major river basins within Bangladesh or upstream in the Indian states of West Bengal, Assam and Meghalaya, will cause another round of flooding across the country, prolonging their duration and significantly increasing their overall impact and the cost and time for recovery. A further complication is the high tides associated with the next full moon (expected on 1/2 Aug), which will limit overall outflow from the country.
A prolonged flood (anything above 4-6 weeks) will cause further hardship and suffering for the flood-affected people, as happened during the 1988 and 1998. It will result in an even greater loss of crops for this season, and further damage to infrastructure and housing.
Additionally, the high floodwaters could have potentially severe health consequences. Prolonged exposure to open unfiltered waters with no functioning sanitation arrangements could lead to outbreaks of communicable diseases such as diarrhoea and even typhoid or cholera. The immediate post-flood period will be a critical time to respond to the needs of the population as, in the past, most mortality caused by a major flood has occurred over the first weeks and months after the water has receded.
There is also a possibility of additional regular monsoon flooding later in August and September. With the population having 'exhausted' their food stocks and assets in coping with this early flood, these later floods could indeed be devastating.
THE ASSESSMENT PROCESS
The Disaster and Emergency Response (DER) Sub-Group of the Bangladesh Local Consultative Group (LCG) conducted a quick assessment process to determine the needs arising from impact of the widespread flooding which commenced around 8 July 2004. Rather than conducting many time-consuming field assessments the DER Facilitation Team designed and implemented a process to consolidate the many assessments conducted and reports produced by relief agencies including NGOs, UN Agencies, and District Administrations particularly the District Relief and Rehabilitation Officers (DRROs). The results of this assessment therefore represent the broad consensus position of the agencies that participated in the process, which took place from 20-27 July 2004. Their findings on the flood impact and their recommendations for immediate, short, medium and long term response measures are summarised below.
On the basis of the assessments that have been received, as well as taking note of the needs arisen in previous flood crises of 1998 and 2000, the priority needs for the flood-affected populations have been compiled below. The needs will be required in all districts throughout the country, in greater or lesser amounts, and as such, all efforts to provide these items -- for distribution through any DER member -- should be encouraged. The items in each category are not in order of priority and, as they will differ from district to district, please refer to the individual district RENA forms for further information. Note that, should the floods across the country not recede in the near future, the suggested timeframes for immediate and short term responses will lengthen, whilst the medium and long term responses will be needed both later and longer than stated.
Immediate Response (up to 2 weeks)
- Rescue and evacuation;
- Water purification tablets;
- Oral saline;
- Food (rice, high-protein biscuits, grains, salt, pulses and vegetables);
- Medical supplies (for diarrhoea, pneumonia, snake bites, sanitary towels);
- Non-food items (saris and lungis, cooking sets, candles and matches);
- Tube well extensions.
- Dry Food;
- Medical services;
- Tube well repair and rehabilitation.
- Corrugated iron roof sheeting;
- Cash and other capital support;
- Seedlings (vegetables, pulses, paddy);
- House building materials;
- Awareness building;
- Embankment (re)construction;
- Flood Shelters;
- Repair and rehabilitation of bridges and culverts;
- Road (re)construction;
- Rehabilitation of schools.