Bangladesh's worst floods in living memory still affect large areas of the country. And as?
Bangladesh's worst floods in living memory still affect large areas of the country. And as floodwaters persist, there's anxiety in the capital, Dacca, that the international community simply hasn't recognised the extent of the calamity and responded with adequate supplies of aid.
The statistics are awsome. Thirty-six million people, half the total population, were affected by the floods. And water covered 20,000 square miles (51,000 square kms), destroying 400,000 houses and at least 800 miles (1,300 kms) of roads.
Half the jute crop, on which Bangladesh depends, has been lost. And three-quarters of a million tons of rice have been destroyed. This means that Bangladesh will have to import upwards of two million tons of foodgrain this year.
The government claims it wants about GBP 135 million sterling to meet urgent needs of food, milk powder, medicines, construction materials and blankets. A further GBP 63 million will be needed for the actual task of rebuilding.
But accusations of widespread corruption in Bangladesh seem to have made international organisations wary of how they dispense their aid. The director of the United Nations relief operation to Bangladesh in 1972 estimates that, for example, only one in seven tins of baby food donated were given out in aid -- the rest were sold on the black market by corrupt officials.
And while the international community hesitates -- the biggest aid effort so far seems to be the GBP 200,000 spent by International Red Cross -- the spectre of famine threatens to pursue the current fear of epidemics in Bangladesh.
SYNOPSIS: Bangladesh's worst floods in living memory still affect large areas of the country. Parts of Dacca, the capital, have been under water for two weeks. And as the floodwaters persist the Bangladesh authorities are becoming worried that in he face of the huge calamity -- twenty-five hundred dead -- offers of international aid have been far from adequate. The statistics are awesome. Thirty-six million people -- half the population were affected by the floods and over four-hundred thousand houses washed away. Half the jute crop has been lost, and three-quarters of a million tons of rice.
At the weekend, the Bangladesh government claimed it needed about a hundred and thirty-five million pounds sterling for urgent food, medicines and construction materials. The reconstruction work in the twenty-thousand square miles flooded could add another sixty-three million pounds to the bill.
But, tragically, the international community is now wary about supplying aid to Bangladesh because of widespread accusations of corruption in distributing it. A United Nations official in charge of the 1972 relief programme reckoned that only a seventh of certain aid was reaching the victims. The other six-sevenths was being sold off on the black market by corrupt officials. As the international community hesitates, the threat of epidemics and famine comes steadily nearer.