Bangladesh Calls for More Flood Aid for Its Homeless
The president of Bangladesh appealed Monday for more foreign aid to feed millions of people left homeless by flooding, and doctors tried to halt an epidemic of diarrhea.
More than 250,000 people were suffering from diarrhea, the nation’s health center said, with nearly 36,000 new cases reported in the last 24 hours. Many of the cases resulted from drinking water contaminated by raw sewage and floodwaters.
President Hussain Mohammed Ershad said the $280 million in aid so far promised to his country is not enough even to rebuild roads washed away by floodwaters that cover three-fourths of the country.
He said it is too early to estimate the total amount of funds needed.
“For centuries the people of Bangladesh have lived with floods, but never before have the rivers unleashed such fury on her people,” the 59-year-old former army general told a news conference.
The government puts the official death toll at 881 from the floods, which started June 13 and reached new heights in late August. The health control center said 138 deaths were from diarrhea, while the others were caused by drownings, houses collapsing and snakebites.
Daily tallies in Dhaka newspapers, however, put the death toll at 1,647, without giving a breakdown by category.
A substantial amount of emergency flood relief arrived Monday in a giant U.S. military cargo plane.
The C-5A Galaxy contained water purification units, water storage tanks and 10,000 five-gallon water containers.
The plane also brought the deputy director of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Jay F. Morris, and doctors from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, water purification specialists and Defense Department transport and logistics specialists.
Ershad, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1982 and later was elected to the presidency in what his opponents called a rigged vote, said there are only 8,000 doctors in Bangladesh, a nation of 110 million people. He said 30 million to 40 million people were marooned by the flood or in need of help.
He also said the flood has destroyed or damaged 8 million houses. Since the average size of a family in Bangladesh is six people, that would appear to mean that 48 million are homeless, up from the 25 million reported previously.
The flood control center said major rivers were receding Monday in the north and west but rising slightly in the south as floodwaters approached the Bay of Bengal.
The Ganges River, which enters Bangladesh from India, fell by 0.75 inch at the western monitoring station of Gualnanda but remained 19 inches above flood level. At the southern monitoring station of Bhagakul, the Ganges rose 0.3 inch to about 30 inches above flood stage.
The United States pledged about $154 million worth of aid to Bangladesh for flood relief, but a large part of this was already in the pipeline to Bangladesh and is being released early.
Aid promised to Bangladesh by foreign donors before the flood stood at $2 billion for the current year.