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Bangladesh: Post-Covid effects may undermine SDG efforts

Published 29 Dec,2020 via The Financial Express - Post-Covid consequences and losses from latest random floods might undercut the country's efforts to achieve sustainable development goals (SDGs), experts told a webinar on Monday.

They said a comprehensive database on flood-hit people should be made for their transplant and effective rehabilitation with intent to attain SDGs within 2030.

The observations were made the virtual dialogue styled 'Relief Support and Agricultural Incentives in Response to COVID-19 and Flood: The Effectiveness of Public Service Delivery'.

The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and Oxfam Bangladesh in partnership with Manab Mukti Sangstha and Citizen's Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh co-hosted the event.

The experts said the amount of relief and incentives should be fixed following the actual number of affected people rather than the total population of a district.

The dialogue was part of the 'Enhancing the participation of community-based organisations and civil society organisations in democratic governance in Bangladesh' project being implemented by CPD and Oxfam.

Supported by the European Union, the project aims to contribute to the implementation of SDGs by the government in numerous areas.

Monday's programme was mainly based on relief distribution and Covid-19 responses of government organisations in Sirajganj district. It revealed shortages of relief materials and government incentives for flood-affected people compared to the demand in Sirajganj during flooding.

The CPD conducted their research in two sub-districts of Sirajganj, including Sirajganj Sadar and Chauhali.

CPD distinguished fellow Prof Mustafizur Rahman and senior research fellow Towfiqul Islam Khan moderated the programme.

Lawmakers from Sirajganj Prof Dr Md Habibe Millat and Tanvir Shakil Joy, among others, also spoke.

CPD senior research associate Muntaseer Kamal presented a keynote during the webinar.

He said 51 per cent of land and 95 per cent of villages of the district were inundated between the July-August period in the outgoing year.

During the 2017-18 floods, the keynoter said, 1.0 per cent of Aman crops was lost in Sirajganj which might increase notably in the 2020 floods for longevity.

He highlighted government initiatives for flooding and Covid-19 responses, including food assistance, cash assistance of Tk 2,500 and free agri inputs for marooned farmers.

According to the paper, the local administration and government representatives made their best efforts in distributing relief, but the allocation was lower than the actual demand.

There is a general lack of awareness among the local people of the government's hotline services.

The beneficiary selection process was not always participatory due to reasons like a lack of promotion of such initiatives, said the paper. Government data shows 0.3 million and 0.31 million families in Sirajganj got rice assistance and cash assistance respectively, it added.

But field reports found many of the affected families were yet to get help.

A list of 75,000 people was sent to the centre seeking the government's humanitarian assistance of Tk 2500 as a part of its new corona response.

But 65 per cent of them got aid, disclosed the paper. A lack of authentic database of disaster-hit people has been hampering such programmes, it cited.

Mr Joy recognised the need for further focusing on employment generation for vulnerable people rather than depending solely on relief measures. Dr Millat said parliamentarians should be involved more actively in the relief distribution process.

Prof Rahman suggested that telecommunication in char areas like Sirajganj be improved by providing government incentives to telecoms companies to broaden their network facilities.

The CPD suggested making a comprehensive database of flood and corona-hit people for transplant and dynamic relief and incentive distribution which are unavoidable to achieve SDGs.

Oxfam Bangladesh head of economic inclusion and justice Mohammad Soeb Iftekhar made an introductory speech while Manab Mukti executive director Md Habibullah Bahar gave a vote of thanks.

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