Amid countrywide shutdown to prevent Covid-19, inhabitants of many remote hilly areas in several upazilas of Bandarban are facing a severe food shortage as authorities are yet to send any aid for these people.
For the last couple of years, many hill people have been facing a food crisis during April and May due to a poor harvest of Jhum cultivation (slash-and-burn agriculture) and the situation aggravated this year thanks to the shutdown.
Family of Pekru Mro, an elderly woman from remote Kapru Para area in Lama upazila, was found to have been subsisting only on potatoes for the last two weeks as they got nothing else to eat.
"We have no food in our house. Sometimes we eat potatoes found in the nearby jungle, sometimes we starve", she said.
Some 30 other families in the area are facing similar food crisis as the families are under self-isolation, with no support from the government, said Ing Chong Mro, karbari (head of the area) of Kapru Para.
During the outbreak of a contagious disease, many communities in the hills build makeshift gates with bamboos called Khasur at the entrances of their villages as part of their traditions, Ing said, adding no one is allowed to cross this gate until the dust settles.
The food crisis is quite similar in many areas of Lama, Thanchi, Alikadom, Ruma and Rowangchhari as the authorities claimed they could not reach out to the people living in these areas due to the remoteness.
"We have not received any relief till now while villagers do not go outside as we have locked our Para with Khasur", said Long Toi Mro, karbari of Champa Jiri Mro Para.
Thowai Ching, headman of Thanchi's Sekdu mouza (a mouza is comprised of several hilly areas), said hundreds of families in his mouza was suffering from acute food shortage.
The most affected areas of the mouza are Thong Nung Khumi Para, Soti Chandra Tripura Para, Jonirang Para, and Hasturang Para, said the headman.
Indigenous people in remote Tindu, Remakri, Boro Madok and Choto Madok of Thanchi upazila also alleged that no one, including the government officials, visited the areas after the shutdown was imposed.
People living in these areas do not fall under the purview of government's development programmes while non-government organisations find it difficult to reach there due to the lack of transportation facilities, locals claimed.
Contacted, Shamim Hossain, additional deputy commissioner (general) of Bandarban, said, "We, along with Bandarban Hill District Council, have already distributed 347 tonnes of rice for around 30,000 families in the district following the shutdown was announced."
"It is really difficult for us to reach the people living in the remote areas, but we are planning to help them", said the ADC.