Life after Sidr
Relief and Rehabilitation work needs to be coordinated
The Chief Adviser's comment that his government would carry out relief and rehabilitation work as long as it was needed is reassuring. The fact that the interim government has planned to build shelters for cattle, following an advice made by the Army Chief, is a sign of foresightedness. The cyclone, one of the deadliest in the country's history, has left trails of devastation in the Southwestern districts of the country. It is indeed reminiscent of a war-ravaged landscape, where hundreds and thousands of people are in desperate need of food and shelter. The government has rightly set its priorities, deciding to concentrate on immediate relief work. But a medium and long term planning is also needed to take the region out of this catastrophe. We have seen it before that whenever a natural disaster hits our country, the government, along with the non-government organisations, pumps money into the distribution of food and clothes among the victims, within a couple of months these people, poor and thus helpless, are forgotten only to be given a few morsels of rice and one or two pieces of clothes when the next disaster strikes again.
Billions of dollars that have been pledged by the donors and millions more that our generous countrymen are coming up with should be spent on long term economic activities like employment generation; a massive rebuilding task should start now. It must not be forgotten that economic security is the ultimate protection against any disaster, be it cyclone or flood. Giving a one hundred taka note to the famished victims may help her or him for a week or two, but in the long run these people will remain as poor as the disaster has left them to be.
New shelters are badly needed, but these must be integrated into the bigger scenario, these centres should be built in such a manner that they could be used as community centres, schools, hospitals and training institutions for the youth. People must be encouraged (and more importantly should be given soft loans) to build <>pukka<> homes, and start small businesses. This disaster has left hundreds of children orphans, they (especially the girl children, who are more vulnerable) must be rescued and given a proper shelter.
A similar kind of calamity we have faced 36 years ago, when a marauding occupying force killed hundreds and thousands of innocent Bangalis, but that disaster has given us resolve, has united us as a nation. This is time to show that resilience again, in our three-decade-old existence we have faced one natural disaster after another, but history teaches us that when people of this country get united for one singular cause there is nothing that can stop them from making their dreams come true. This is also time to show that resilience again, to become one nation again. Let the power of unity be our ultimate weapon against poverty and hunger. The interim government, for its turn, must draw out a long-term plan to rebuild these 33 districts. History and nature have thrown a challenge at us, we must prove it to ourselves that we can live up to it.
(R) thedailystar.net 2007