Heavy monsoon rain and water from upstream sources caused slow-onset severe flooding in low lying areas of Northern Bangladesh. The 2020 flood has some remarkable characteristics considering the major floods in the recent past in the Brahmaputra river basin. The highest flood levels at the Bahadurabad station in the Brahmaputra river in 1988, 2016, 2017, and 2019 were 20.62m, 20.71m, 20.84m, and 21.16m above the Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre (FFWC) datum respectively. This is the second-longest flood since 1998, when the water level was 63 days above the danger level. However, such types of prolonged floods in the Brahmaputra-Jamuna river never started so early in the past. The present flood is ongoing for 35 days and more than 36% Areas are Inundated in flood the affected 30 Districts. According to the NDRCC, one (1) million households are waterlogged. The disruption of services hinders meeting basic needs and people suffer from hunger, illness, thirst and filthiness.
The report of the National Disaster Response Coordination Center (NDRCC) issued on 2 August informs that 5.4 million people are affected and, that 10,59,295 household are inundated. The Department of Public Health and Engineering (DPHE) informs in its report indicate that 928,60 tube-wells damaged and 100,223 latrines are damaged. The Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) informs that in the around 83,000 hectares of paddy fields were affected.
According to the expert opinion that the several climates and planning related factors that would contribute to the changes in flood characteristics in Bangladesh are listed below:
- Rapid urbanization has changed the land cover by increasing impervious surfaces. Such land cover changes have prevented the natural infiltration of rainfall into the ground and increased direct runoff.
- Loss of natural storage by illegal encroachment in the wetlands and flood plains helps to increase flood-flow in the river system.
- Construction of embankment prevents floodwater from entering flood plains and also disrupts the role of the flood plain to attenuate flood peak.
- Deforestation and converting natural forests into agricultural land increase soil erosion and sediment load in the river
- Structural interventions by constructing roads across the flood plains or flood management projects negatively affect the natural drainage system
- Construction of dam and barrages of the upstream changes in the flood regimes and river morphology in many rivers
- Failure of embankments change the spatial-temporal patterns of flood inundation.
- The riverbed has aggraded due to the siltation, and the construction of dams in the rivers would increase flood peak
The humanitarian community together with the Government of Bangladesh estimated likely impacts of the floods and took action early on. With a pilot allocation from the Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF), the World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) distributed multi-purpose cash, seeds, livestock feed, storage drums, hygiene, dignity and health kits in five districts which were eventually impacted by the current severe floods (Bogura, Gaibandha, Kurigram, Jamalpur and Sirajgonj). This trailblazing pilot was implemented in close collaboration with the BDRCS-led working group on Forecast-based Action (FbA) under the HCTT. Its members activated their Early Actions protocols.
Based on riverbank erosion prediction, with UK Aid support, Start Fund Bangladesh provided cash assistance to 405 people through CARE Bangladesh and Solidarity. Moreover, with the support of ECHO, CARE-led consortium implemented anticipatory actions in the districts of Kurigram, Gaibandha and Jamalpur.
According to the latest NDRCC report on 31 July, 14,410 metric tons of rice were allocated to 33 districts. These districts also received an allocation of more than Tk34.45 million (US$405,771.50) in cash, 152,000 packets of dry and other food items, Tk27800000 million (US$327444.05) for cattle feed, Tk11000000 million (US$129,564.19) for baby food, 300 bundles of corrugated iron sheets and Tk0.9 million (US$10,600) as house-grant.
The helpline number ‘333’ was activated to support people seeking assistance. The MoA informed that 50,000 farmers will be provided with fertilizers and seeds of lentils (mashkalai) worth Tk3.82 (US$0.45 million) in case of losses related to the production of Aman. MoDMR instructed local authorities to collect damage information and to monitor the flood situation. 2,058 Mobile Medical Teams are working 24/7. The National Health Emergency Operations Centre and Control Room are working 24/7.
At BDRCS’s request, International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) launched an Emergency Plan of Action (EPoA). IFRC through Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) allocated CHF 577,496 from Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to respond to the flood. A total number of 960 Red Crescent Youth (RCY) Volunteers are working in all affected branches for emergency response activities. 5 National Disaster Response Team (NDRT) members are currently deployed to assist concerned branch offices in order to facilitate this distribution. 50,000 masks have been provided through duty of care section under DREF allocation to all units working on ongoing flood operation, considering concurrent COVID-19 situation. BDRCS National Headquarter has allocated BDT 2 million for 12 districts to purchase dry food package (consisting flattened rice, sugar/molasses, biscuit etc.) and this has already been sent to respective units namely Jamalpur, Sirajganj, Bogura, Kurigram, Gaibandha, Lalmonirhat, Tangail,Noagaon, Netrokona, Sunamganj, Manikganj and Sherpur. All branch offices are keeping close contact with District Administration office/DRRO for effective coordination while responding to emergencies and to collect updated information. BDRCS continues sharing flood and concurrent COVID-19 awareness messages through RCY volunteers and its social media platforms.
With UK Aid support, Start Fund Bangladesh raised an alert and GBP 900,000 were allocated for the relief response in the districts of Kurigram, Gaibandha, Sirajganj, Jamalpur, Sylhet and Sunamganj. Response partners are CNRS, ESDO, VARD, SAVE, Friendship BD, Islamic Relief BD and World Vision. USAID has allocated US$ 100,000 in relief funds and will continue to help poor households recover from the flood and COVID economic impacts with programming for Disaster Risk Reduction and recovery in Kurigram, Gaibandha, Jamaipur, Sirajganj, Netrokona, Sunamaganji, Kishoreganj and Habiganji to CARE Bangladesh. UN Agencies including UNICEF, WFP, FAO, UNDP, WHO and UNFPA are using prepositioned stocks to complement the response.
The Humanitarian Coordination Task Team (HCTT) co-led by the MoDMR and the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office met on 14 July 2020. As recommended by the MoDMR which co-chairs the HCTT together with the UN, the clusters liaised closely with their national technical government partners in order to analyse jointly the situation and to identify possible areas where a complementary support from the humanitarian community would add-value to the government-led response. The anticipatory impact analysis activated the Humanitarian Preparedness and Response Plan (HPRP) in line with the HCTT contingency plan for climate-related disasters in time of COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic context puts further challenges to response and recovery efforts in particular for the respect of physical distancing measures.
The Needs Assessment Working Group (NAWG) led by the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) and CARE coordinated an impact assessment of the situation in collaboration with national authorities and partners. The primary purpose of the assessment is identifying the actual impact scenario, identifying immediate and mid-term needs through contextualized primary (both GoB and field data collection) and secondary information. The analysis was also done based on baseline secondary pre-crisis information from the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics and other reliable sources. Sector-specific analysis were undertaken by concerned Clusters. The assessment data are collected by more than 60 local, national and international agencies. The findings show that flooding inundated over 34,000 km2 of land, which amounts to 24% of the country. It includes the district of Jamalpur flooded at 75%. Approximately 56,000 people have been evacuated to 1,086 flood shelters. Several districts are isolated due to road communication damaged. Thousands of latrines and wells are damaged or destroyed and seven districts are out of safe drinking water. Over 1,900 schools are damaged, leaving 807,467 children without access to education.