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INTERVIEW-Flood-hit Bangladeshis spend Eid in misery - Red Cross
NEW DELHI |
NEW DELHI Aug 30 (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis hit by heavy monsoon floods will be forced to spend the Muslim festival of Eid sheltering in schools or under tarpaulin sheets by roadsides with little aid, the Red Cross warned on Tuesday.
The annual monsoons have been heavier than normal in low-lying flood-prone Bangladesh, sparking major rivers to burst their banks and overflow.
Hundreds of villages across the country's southwest and southeast regions, as well as along the coast, have been inundated -- forcing some 200,000 people to flee to higher ground with whatever possessions they can carry.
"It's a miserable time for these people. During Eid they would normally be celebrating with family and friends, feasting and exchanging gifts. It's obviously not going to be this way for them this year," Udaya Regmi, country representative of the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) told Reuters by phone from Dhaka.
"People could remain in these conditions unable to go back home for at least two months, so we need to be prepared to respond to their basic needs as well as helping them regain their lost livelihoods when they eventually are able to return."
Regmi said the flooding has disrupted the lives of up to one million people, mainly in the most affected districts of Satkhira, Jessore, Cox's Bazar and Kustia were mostly poor farmers and fishermen live.
They have not only lost their homes, but their only means of income as fish and shrimp farms, livestock and crops such as rice paddy have been completely destroyed.
Bangladesh is one of the most flood-prone countries in the world because of its geographic location and topography. It is the drainage basin for rivers including the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Teesta that start in the snowy mountains of India, Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan.
Thousands of kilometres of embankments have been erected since the 1950s, but they have failed to stop the major rivers from flooding as many are chocked with industrial waste.
Regmi said affected populations are in urgent need of food, clean water, and shelter materials as well as health care to prevent water-borne diseases from spreading.
Response by the government and international community has so far been slow, Regmi said.
"Forget international attention, even the local response to the plight of these flood-affected communities has been poor. Perhaps it's due to the slow onset of the disaster where daily rains since July have caused water levels to rise over a long period of time," Regmi said.
(Reporting by Nita Bhalla; Editing by Frederik Richter)
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