Officials of the UN organisations on Saturday stressed the need for immediate and concerted relief and rehabilitation operations in flood-hit Sylhet and Sunamganj districts.
Addressing a press briefing in the city they described the recent flood as the severest one, experienced by this region in the last 122 years.
Women and children are the worst sufferers, they noted. Concerted efforts are very much needed to overcome the crisis, they said while calling the media to focus on the field realities, especially of the remote localities.
The press conference was held at a hotel in Sylhet city’s suburb after the joint mission’s field visit. The event was addressed by UN Resident Coordinator Gwyn Lewis, UNFP’s Kristine Blokhus, UNICEF’s Shelden Yett, FCDO’s Yatt Cannell and Start Fund’s Country Manager Sajid Raihan.
After visiting some of the affected areas in Sunamganj district’s Shatiganj on Saturday, the officials gave a vivid picture of their experience.
They asserted that the government and international organisations should work jointly to face the crisis since many areas remained flooded so far. Yet there are apprehensions of further flooding, the officials noted since the monsoon is yet to end.
The northeastern part of Bangladesh was devastated by torrential rains and flash floods due to heavy rainfall in the upper streams of Surma, Kushiyara and other rivers of the Brahmaputra basin that are linked to the region.
Flash flood in the same region took place in May this year, hitting Sunamganj and Sylhet badly.
But the second wave of flash floods took place due to the heavy rainfall from 15 June, especially in Sylhet, Sunamganj and Netrokona districts, they said.
According to the Needs Assessment Working Group (NAWG), 7.2 million people were affected by the flood.
“They are in severe need of immediate food, water and cash support alongside shelter, protection, and water, sanitation and hygiene support,” the group said.
Most of the areas in Sylhet and Sunamganj had been out of reach for several days due to the extreme flow of flood water, leading to further increasing impact.
The first alert for flood was raised by Start Fund Bangladesh member agencies on 23 may within 6 days of the heavy rainfall started and the members were able to reach within 7 days of issuing the alert after observing the need of rapid emergency response to support the affected people in Sylhet and Sunamganj districts.
Citing data of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, the speakers said as many as 472,856 people was taken to around 1,605 shelter centres in a combined efforts of army, navy, fire service and local authorities and volunteers.
Considering the current situation in flood-affected areas, they expressed fear of fresh floods in the coming days.
It was informed that the department of disaster Management and CARE conducted a coordinated impact assessment of the situation in collaboration with national and partners.
The event was told that the disaster management authorities and the UN Resident Coordinator’s office endorsed a response plan on June 27 for 6 months till December this year.
The strategic objectives of the plan are urgent life-saving and livelihood assistance provided for the affected communities, affected people enjoy a safer and healthier environment for living and vulnerabilities are reduced and the safety, dignity and resilience of the most vulnerable populations are restored.
The UNFPA representative said, “60,000 women are pregnant in the affected region while 4,500 will be delivered of their babies soon. During the flood 177 women delivered children. All these women need special care and treatment.”