Acute food crisis prevails in different villages of the remote Sajek union under Baghaichhari upazila of Rangamati for the last two to three months where one kilogramme of coarse rice is being sold at Tk 85-90, locals and their representatives say.
The local representatives have already written to their higher authorities in the administration, but the government is yet to send any aid to the affected villages. The representatives of Baghaichhari Upazila Parishad at their own initiative distributed some rice among the villagers on April 22, but it was very inadequate, they added.
"We need more food assistance. If the government does not act quickly and sincerely, people will die," Barha Hrishi Chakma, chairman of Baghaichhari Upazila Parishad, told The Daily Star over phone yesterday.
Sajek is the largest union located in the north of Chittagong Hill Tracts. It is situated 67km northeast of Khagrachhari town and 95km northwest of Rangamati town. The border of Bangladesh and Mizoram in India is 8km east from Sajek, according to Wikipedia.
Kala Chan Tripura, Karbai (chief) of Kajatoli village, said most of the people of Sajek are poor and depend on mostly Jhum cultivation and resources collected from forests.
Every year people of some areas face food crisis during this period as the total yield from farming decreases. Many people buy rice as they run out of stocks, he added.
But the crisis this year is relatively more acute thanks to high price of rice and fall of the price of bamboo, a major income source for many inhabitants, said Kala Chan Tripura.
Locals say a single bamboo is usually sold at Tk 20-22, but the price now plummeted to Tk 7-8. The existing poor road communication has worsened further due to recent heavy rain, causing a sharp rise in the price of rice in remote villages.
Dohindra Lal Tripura, member of Ward-8 of the union, said price of one kilogramme of coarse rice is Tk 45 at Machalong Bazar, the nearest market of the areas facing the food crisis. However, the price shot up to Tk 85-90 when it reaches their areas -- Udolchori, New Joipu, Old Joipu, Batling Para and Tarum Para -- due to poor communication.
It takes one and a half days to reach many areas from Machalong Bazar, he said.
"People have no money to buy the costly food. They have no income source,” said Dohindra, adding that many have to eat boiled potato and banana trees for one or two meals a day.
Suchila Chakma, a woman member of Sajek union, said women and children are the worst victims of the crisis.
Nelson Chakma, chairman of Sajek Union Parishad, said the crisis began three months ago and around 40 villages are now affected and in need of emergency food supply.
“I have already informed the upazila administration and even sent a letter to the ministry [Disaster Management and Relief] to allocate 600 tonnes food for the union,” he told The Daily Star yesterday.
Barha Hrishi Chakma said they have informed the district administration more than two weeks ago about the situation, but no aid arrived.
"Five tonnes of rice were allocated for the affected people. Of the rice, two tonnes are likely to reach on Monday," he said, adding that all elected representatives of his upazila have jointly distributed more than four tonnes of rice on April 22.
"It was very, very inadequate," he observed.
Contacted, Prokash Kanti Chowdhury, acting deputy commissioner of Rangamati, told The Daily Star yesterday that after receiving a letter from the local Union Parishad and Upazila Parishad chairmen, they have already allocated five tonnes of rice for the affected areas.
He claims the food aid was distributed among the people around a week ago.
"We have sufficient stock of food and asked the local representatives to inform us if more food is required," he added.