Thursday, September 4, 2014

Bangladesh floods test disaster response improvements

IRIN: Floods triggered by two weeks of intense rain have affected two million people in northern Bangladesh and left up to half a million homeless. While the country’s disaster response capacity has been enhanced in recent years, experts argue that with people displaced and crops destroyed the flooding is testing response mechanisms.

"Improvement has been made in regard to flood forecasting system but there is still lack of coordination among government agencies," Mahbuba Nasreen, director of the Institute of Disaster Management and Vulnerability Studies at Dhaka University, told IRIN.

A 31 August situation report by the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief said 17 of the country’s 64 districts have been affected. Six of these districts are expected to experience rising water levels this week, and Dhaka, the capital and home to 15 million people, may see flooding as well. NGOs estimate that the floods have left 500,000 homeless and, according to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), “others, who have nowhere else to go, have remained in their flooded homes.”

Nasreen explained that part of the remaining weakness is due to Bangladesh’s Water Development Board being responsible for building and repairing embankments, which protect against floods, while the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief is responsible for reacting to disasters. This, she argued, results in lack of coordination between the two agencies. "One organization should look after the whole thing," she said. "There are still lots of things to do to improve [the] country's disaster response."...

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