One-third of households in flash flood affected haor areas had to consume two meals instead of three a day as they changed their usual food habits to cope with scarcity, a recent study found.
‘Of them, 53 per cent consumed less food and 16 per cent had low nutritious food due the scarcity. Overall, one-third of people were found severely food insecure after the flash flood, status of insecurity was highest in Sunamganj where most of the area was affected,’ revealed the study report placed at a workshop in the city on Wednesday.
The reasons of having less meal than their need after the flood that hit the haors in late March included lack of money, crop loss during the harvest period, low food supply in local market, high price of food, unavailability of transports and lack of relief, the report mentioned.
The study on ‘Flash flood 2017: Perspective from haor area of Bangladesh’ conducted by non-government development organisation BRAC in June-July covered 70 villages of 31 unions under six districts—Moulvibazar, Sunamganj, Sylhet, Habiganj, Netrokona and Kishoreganj.
Agriculture was found to be the main occupation of the haor dwellers with around 52 per cent of households being engaged in farming in normal time, said BRAC’s senior research fellow Nepal C Dey while presenting his report .
‘But only about 13 per cent of people were engaged in agriculture during the flood, highest around 24 per cent were engaged in fishery at the same time,’ he said.
Nepal said the flood had also adverse impacts on mental health as 55 per cent of the people were found to have tension of loan payment while 72.6 per cent had tension of daily food arrangement.
About 92 per cent students reported that they attended school six days a week before the flood, which dropped to about 63 per cent during the flood. The highest absentees were found in the study area of Moulvibazar because they were not accustomed to usual flood, the study found.
‘To maintain livelihood after the flood when the income was insufficient, about half of households took loan from their relatives and over 24 per cent from NGOs,’ the study found.
Replying to a question, Nepal said, about 8.5 lakh out of 29 lakh households in haors of six districts were worst affected by flash floods during their harvest period in April.
Addressing the workshop as chief guest, water resources minister Anisul Islam Mahmud said, 2017 was an exceptional year for haor people.
He said flash floods hit the areas in late March and April destroying the standing crops as the embankments were made submersible to protect the areas from floods from the middle of May keeping in mind the fisheries in the haor belts.
The minister, however, said that the government was considering redesigning the structures for protection in the wake of changes in rainfall pattern in Bangladesh due to climate change.
The study also estimated total loss in agricultural sector including crop, poultry and dairy and day labour at Tk 2,918 crore due to the flash floods triggered by heavy rainfall in April in the northeastern region.
The study report recommended improving drainage system re-excavating of rivers, canals and enhancing protection capacity of dams and embankments and ensuring their timely repairs in the haor belts.
It also recommended steps for making availability of emergency support including supply of rice at the local level.
The report mentioned that 76 per cent and 22 per cent of the affected households received support from the government and BRAC’s emergency responses respectively within four weeks of flood.
Another study report on ‘New Approach to Reducing Poverty and Vulnerability: Evidence from BRAC’s Integrated Development Programme was also presented in the workshop addressed by BRAC executive director Muhammad Musa, among others.
Asked for his comment, former Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research director AM Zakir Hussain said that a fall in dietary intake will have long-term consequences on the people of haors.
‘Women, children and elderly people will bear the brunt of it,’ he told New Age.
Lack of food will lead to children born with low birth weight and the mother and the children will suffer from malnutrition, Zakir said.
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