Fight for survival still on | The Daily Star
11:00 PM, October 30, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:00 PM, October 30, 2009

Fight for survival still on

Proper rehabilitation eludes thousands of homeless Aila victims in Satkhira

This recently taken photo shows makeshift huts on an embankment in Dumuria village at Shyamnagar in Satkhira, where thousands of Aila survivors are facing hardship due to poor rehabilitation programme of the government. Inset, Sixty-two-year-old Ayesha Khatun, too, lost her house and belongings in the cyclone and took refuge on the Pakhimara embankment. Photo: Wasim Bin Habib

Sixty-two-year-old Ayesha Khatun often makes serious attempts to fish in the vast stretches of the Kholpetua river so that she and her paralysed husband do not starve to death.
Sometimes she manages to make a very small catch, which makes her day. But most of the days she returns empty-handed as her age doesn't allow her to stand against the strong current for long.
Forced by never-ending hunger she still continues her struggle to catch fish as she sees no other alternatives to survive after the cyclone Aila shattered every piece of her dreams.
A resident of Pakhimara village in Padmapukur union, Ayesha could seek help from her neighbours, but they live in no better a condition on the embankment as refugees.
When all her attempts on a particular day turn futile, and this is almost the daily scene, she opts for begging. But the people in the locality are not much of a big alms-giver.
"Can you tell me what should I do, how can I get the money necessary to be at least alive? There is no relief from anyone and I need to feed my ailing husband," she told The Daily Star in Garkumarpur Bazar with eyes full of tears.
Like the other Aila survivors, Ayesha too has lost her house and every belonging in the cyclone and took refuge on the three-kilometre Pakhimara embankment.
She once received Tk 3,000 from the government to repair her house, but that money was spent meeting their daily needs. "How could I rebuild my house when I was struggling to have three meals a day?" a virtually hopeless woman asked.
A mother of two children who left their parents two years ago, Ayesha said she could not even join the dam repairing work due to old age.
The plight of Fatema Akter, 32, a resident of Garkumarpur village of the same union, is no less than Ayesha's.
A mother of three, she worked hard in the dam repairing work for several days and received some rice. But now she has no alternative to fishing as there has been no effective rehabilitation programme for the Aila victims in the one and a half months.
She is one of the most unfortunate victims who did not get the house repairing assistance from the government. "Those who suffered little by the cyclone received the money, while we lost everything and received nothing," she said.
Like Ayesha and Fatema, thousand others in Gabura and Padmapukur unions in Shyamnagar upazila and Pratapnagar union in Ashashuni upazila are facing hardship due to poor rehabilitation programme of the government.
The cyclone took their houses along with their means of earning. The sufferings of the survivors increased further as the government is running no relief work or rehabilitation programme now.
Though the occupations of most of the people of the poverty-stricken, Aila-hit areas are fish farming, day labouring and woodcutting, most of them now pass their days either fishing or just staying home.
A number of Aila victims who took shelter on the embankment in Gabura and Padmapukur say they are helpless and in dire need of food and work.
They say the last thing they have received was some clothes, a sheet of tarpaulin, polythene, soaps and a few buckets from some non-government organisations (NGO) one and a half months ago.
Shafiul Azam Lenin, chairman of Gabura union, says the victims are desperately waiting for government support as they have no income sources.
"Everything has stopped here -- relief or assistance by anyone. Only life goes on with severe crises of food, drinking water and accommodation."
He adds some 2,000 families in his union have received 10-kg rice under Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF) programme after the Eid-ul-Fitr and since then no assistance from the government came.
Echoing the same, Amzad Hossain, chairman of Padmapukur union, says there is no work in the area, even no supportive programmes from the government.
He says they have distributed 10-kg rice to each of 1,200 families in his union under the VGF programme after the Eid.
Both the chairmen say though VGF cards for the victims were allocated, they have yet to get the demand order for it.
Food Minister Abdur Razzaque told The Daily Star the government has provided huge assistance for the victims and will continue it till December.
The district administration of Satkhira says around Tk 65.45 lakh in cash and 56,500 tonnes of rice were distributed among the Aila victims and more rice will be distributed soon.
"We will give 20 kilograms of rice to each of the 5,250 families in Gabura, 4,000 families in Padmapukur and 500 families in Pratapnagar a month till December," says Abdus Samad, deputy commissioner (DC) of Satkhira.
He adds they have received the allocation and would distribute it very soon.
On house repairing assistance, he informs they have given Tk 2.48 crore for rebuilding houses to 11,500 families in the entire district. Each family received Tk 3,000.
Samad says they will soon give Tk 1.5 crore to the worst-affected Shyamnagar and Tk 1.5 crore to another worst-affected Ashashuni upazila for building houses.
"We have received delivery orders and will start distribution of the money within a few days," he adds.
Abdus Samad goes on to say they will start the employment generation for hardcore poor programme from November 1 where each of the victims will get Tk 100 by working for seven hours a day.
He adds he has also asked the NGOs and other organisations to chalk out alternative income generation programmes for the Aila victims.

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