Vol. 5 Num 70 Thu. August 05, 2004  
Front Page

Economy needs a year to recover
UN acting resident representative says after meeting with donors

The acting UN resident coordinator expressed fears yesterday, a week ahead of the launch of the UN appeal for aid, Bangladesh would need at least a year to recover from the destruction the devastating flood inflicted on its economy.

"Tens of millions face grave food insecurity, waterborne diseases, a badly mangled infrastructure and extremely poor prospects for the next rice crop," said Douglas Casson Coutts, acting resident coordinator, in a UN press release yesterday.

Coutts also feared in the wake of the grave food insecurity and unemployment, the flood-hit rural people are bound to migrate to the cities that are already overwhelmed.

"Bangladesh cannot afford anymore urbanisation. We have to give people the means to stay home and help rebuild their communities," said Coutts, as part of long-term plans to cope with future floods.

He expressed the fears to major donors at a meeting at the IDB Bhaban in Dhaka yesterday, where he also outlined preliminary plans to cope with the post-flood devastation. The heads of UN agencies in Dhaka, representative of the British Department for International Development (DFID), European Union ambassador and the Australian High Commissioner, among others, attended the meeting.

Emerging from the meeting, Coutts told reporters that donors were 'fairly favourable' in responding to the grave situation and the UN plans for post-flood assistance.

"The conference was called to present information to donors and lay the groundwork in approaching the appeal next week," Coutts said. "The donors know the need is very grave, they know the reasons, and they needed to be assured that their resources will utilised effectively," he added.

In the meeting, the donors sent a strong message to the government that coordination of the post-flood rehabilitation between the UN, donors, NGOs and the government is imperative to ensure an effective assistance programme, a donor representative at the meeting told The Daily Star.

Coutts and Siddiqur Rahman Chowdhury, secretary of food and disaster management ministry, described the extent of the flood-damage to donors, but the exact damage to each sector will be quantified before the appeal next week.

The UN appeal will incorporate assessments done by the UN itself, the government, the donors and the NGOs.

"The donors, the UN and the government are assessing the flood damage separately and we will consider all these assessments to jointly present a figure that is required for post-flood rehabilitation," Chowdhury told reporters after the meeting.

"As the floodwaters recede, the full extent of the damage and the consequent challenges of rebuilding houses, roads, schools and public services are emerging," the UN press release stated.

Food and Disaster Management Minister Chowdhury Kamal Ibne Yusuf told reporters last week the government expects the national economy to incur damage close to Tk 30 to 40 thousand crore due to the floods.

The UN is already running its flood-relief operations through its existing agencies, said Coutts, but the post-flood rehabilitation plan would involve schools, government agencies and NGOs alongside the UN agencies.

The UN agencies would also monitor the post-flood rehabilitation and report it to donors to maintain donor confidence, Coutts added.