Tahmina Shafique The Complete Portfolio

30Nov/070

A rare tribute to the Doors

At the beginning of this year, when the town’s happening spot Kozmo Lounge introduced a weekly event that gave an opportunity for new musicians to perform, little did one know that it would go on to become a huge success in the months to come. Today, the spotlight has been taken up by not only some of the renowned artists in the music industry, but also promising new talent.

Last Friday, Kozmo presented what could be one of the best performances that the city’s music lovers had seen in a long while. The show was planned as a tribute to the legendary 1960s band The Doors, and the performers, a group of five young university students, faithfully recreated the music and voice of the legendary ‘Lizard King’ Jim Morrison.

The performances was reminescent of the depth, energy and emotion of Doors concerts as they were back in 1967-1970, and the band succeeded in capturing the hearts and minds of the jampacked audience.

‘I was simply overwhelmed by their performance myself,’ says Arif Hafiz, CEO of Kozmo and the man behind this idea. ‘I had always wanted a tribute of this sort and when this young group came along; I wanted to experiment a little. Little did I know that they would actually do justice to The Doors and relive the very essence of Jim Morrison.’

The show titled ‘A Tribute to the Doors’ ran for about three hours and the packed audience made their way on the floor, just to get a glimpse of what most of them called as the ‘rebirth of Jim Morrison’. The vocalist Salzar Rahman, dressed in a black T-shirt with the sleeves hacked off and his curled black hair, reminiscent of the 1970s, won hearts instantly. The young singer, in possession of a supple, demonstrative voice that sounds incapable of a flat note, began the performance with the epic ‘The End’ and his gang followed The Doors’ sophomoric chord changes that left everyone awestruck.

Their other songs, including classic hits Riders on the Storm, Break On Through, Light My Fire, and Back Door Man only dazzled with equal fervour.

The band, composed of guitarists Imran Ahmed and Saadat Hamid, bassist Saad Muntazim and Sabbir Hossain on the drums, managed to complement Salzar’s vocal mastery effectively with unrestrained enthusiasm, faithfully replicating each note, chord and drum solo as first heard on the Doors’ records four decades ago.

What is more impressive is that none of the band members, apart from Sabbir, already a successful musician with the bands Vibe and Reborn, had ever performed for a formal audience before. For them playing and singing has been more of a passion than a vocation. ‘It’s always been something we do for fun, whenever we get together,’ says Imran.

‘I think a special appreciation goes to Sadaat who always ensured we get together seriously and practice right before the show,’ says Salzar.

Although lacking a keyboardist, the hallmark of the Doors’ iconic sound and music, the band managed to transcribe the tunes of the keyboard effectively on to the guitar, thus adding to the atmosphere and eclecticism of the performance. Guitar solos by Imran and Saadat enriched the performance, complimented by the smooth basslines laid down flawlessly by Saad and the frenetic drumming by Sabbir.

The evening was enhanced by the packed audience, who sang along faithfully with the band on each and every song. ‘The performance was truly amazing,’ says Nasfia, an ardent fan of the Doors. ‘The entire band sounded so good together. I think that it’s great that these guys got the chance to express their creativity and talent in such an amazing way.’

Forty years after his death, Jim Morrison lives on in the hearts and souls of thousands of adoring fans. For some of them, Friday night’s performance was an unforgettable delight.

The band, meanwhile, is slated to do a Beatles tribute concert very soon.

Filed under: Entertainment No Comments
30Nov/070

The difficult road to recovery (with others)

‘Please include my name in your list, I haven’t gotten anything yet,’ wailed 35-year Shorupjan to journalists. ‘All of my belongings have been washed away by the tide. In last few days I didn’t eat anything,’ said the resident of Shoronkhola union of Bagerhat district.

People of Shoronkhola union did not receive any relief food until the second day after the tropical cyclone ‘SIDR’ destroyed the whole area.

On November 17 and 18, a NGO distributed some relief food among the survivors near the cyclone shelter of Tafalbari. The villagers, however, alleged that only the loan members were on their list.

On November 19, the army distributed food along the river next to Bogi and Gabtola village at Shoronkhola. The relief efforts ended in chaos with many people left disgruntled not having received any food. ‘Only the strong ones in the crowd can push forward in this huge mass of people. It is impossible for women like me or the elders to get anything,’ said Shahera Khatun (35), who came to get aid with her two children, Munni (9) and Sohrab (2)

By the end of the day, three people were seen walking off with a full sack of rice while most victims received no more than a kilogram. ‘We have helped the army in distribution,’ was their explanation.

Shoronkhola finally began receiving attention after three to four days of the disaster. Both sides of the main street, from Rayenda to Lakurtola, filled up with temporary shelters built by Red Crescent Society who distributed cooked food, blankets and candles to the villagers. ‘I was able to give some rice to my son after two days. During these days we drank filthy water,’ said Wahidul Islam (45) standing among hundreds of people, queuing in the dusk.

In Lakurtola, Muslim Aid and Bangladesh German Friendship Organization (BGFO) also set up temporary shelters. The victims, who gathered from far-flung villages, received two meals a day on a regular basis. However, those who could not travel three to four miles up to the main street went without food.

Scores of people in the insides of Gabtola and Bogi live under the open sky and starve for food. Many women either failed to go to the shelters or did not get a ‘card’, while many children and elderly people are close to death from the cold weather. At Bogi, all the ponds have been damaged and there is no tube well to get water making the scarcity of drinking water acute. ‘Lots of people from our village took shelter beside the main street in Lakurtola and Tafalbari. They are getting everything but no one is coming inside the villages to see our misery,’ said 24-year old Shahinoor Begum.

Different organisations, from nearby villages to far-away cities, are gathering everyday with huge trucks and buses and distributing clothes, food and drinking water to the suffering people. ‘We received an unbelievable response while raising funds for Sidr victims,’ says a volunteer of Echakhata Grambashi, a local organisation who came to Shoronkhola with aid. ‘An old woman gave one of her few blouses for relief.’

Mismanagement of relief is, however, strongly evident. On relief party was seen throwing clothes from the top of a bus. People who have established temporary living places besides the streets are receiving most of the aid, on some occasions, a few times over. ‘I have received just two rounds of relief in the last seven days. There is no way to get any work either. But my children are starving,’ says Mosammat Nurjahan Begam (35) from Bokultala village of Shoronkhola.

Till date, when on walks the streets of Shoronkhola, the stench of decaying flesh buried under the fallen trees and houses is still very strong. ‘We have heard that a few bodies have been recovered from the sea today. Who knows what is lying underneath here- dead animals or human beings,’ said Abdus Sattar, a Red Crescent volunteer, on November 26.

The destruction left by Sidr in terms of the dead, the injured and sick, the starving and homeless, the loss of crops, houses, animals and infrastructure is gargantuan compared to the efforts for relief and rehabilitation that have begun.

Damages

Updated official report from ministry of food and disaster management (MOFDM) illustrates that the number of death has risen to 3060 affecting 6.8 million people of 1.6 million families. These casualties and damages of houses, livestock, crops, educational institutions, roads and embankments have been reported from 1811 unions of 200 upazilas of 31 districts. According to the Disaster Management Control Room (DMCR), 1180 people are missing, and roughly 7000 persons are injured. The total number of damaged houses stood at 1210685.

Different economists are assessing the economic loss using diverse techniques, but most have found the damage to be around Tk 6,000 crore. But the figure is sure to increase once the government prepares the final report of devastation. According to the primary estimation of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), Sidr caused property loss of Tk 6,500 crore. On the basis of data available from the MOFDM up to November 21, CPD calculated the loss of roads and bridges at Tk 1,100 crore, houses at Tk 750 crore, and trees at Tk 500 crore.

According to the primary assessment of ministry of agriculture (MOA), around 10 lakh tonnes of Aman rice production may be lost due to Cyclone Sidr along with other standing crops in an area of eight lakh hectares of land. Sidr has partially or totally damaged standing crops on around five lakh hectares of land in the south and south-western districts, causing a loss of around six lakh tonnes of food-crops, particularly the aman paddy, which makes up 41 per cent of the total rice production of the country.

MOA officials inform that the cyclone damaged standing crops of winter vegetables, oil seeds, pulses, transplanted aman paddy of local and high yielding varieties and seedbeds of boro rice on vast tracts of land. Among the damaged vegetable crops are cauliflower, radish, cabbage, lal shak, mustard seed and various varieties of pulses. Many fruit trees, mostly papaya and banana, have been flattened by the cyclonic winds.

‘Sixty per cent of the crops ravaged by Sidr have been completely destroyed. The total production of aman is likely to be decreased by 16 lakh tonnes as the recent flood caused a loss of 10 lakh tonnes of food-grains this year. The government had set an optimistic target of 1,30,00,000 tonnes of aman this year,’ says an official of MOA.

The country’s shrimp or frozen food industry, the second largest foreign exchange earner, fears an estimated loss of Tk 250 crore. As per Maqsudur Rahman, vice-president of Bangladesh Frozen Food Exporters’ Association (BFFEA) shrimp farms are likely to suffer 70 percent or Tk 175 crore of estimated loss in the three southern districts of Bagerhat, Satkhira and Khulna, which were severely ravaged by Sidr. Farms in this region are well known for their Black Tiger shrimp, also called Bagda shrimp locally.

Such a massive loss comes hard on the heels of TK 150 crore loss which shrimp farmers faced due to drastic fall in prices and demands on the international shrimp markets. ‘The rest of the loss, 30 percent or Tk 75 crore, is likely to be incurred by shrimp farms located in Barguna, Patuakhali, Firojpur, Madaripur and Gopalganj where fresh water shrimp, locally known as Golda, are cultivated. Bagda shrimp is cultivated on 1,30,000 hectares of land in the region while Golda is cultivated on 40,000 hectares of land. The farmers will not be able to sell their product to the exporters now as the hurricane washed away most of the shrimp enclosures and hatcheries,’ said Maqsudur.

In the meantime, Directorate of Fisheries (DOF) is assessing the loss caused by Sidr, especially the loss incurred by farmers. The DOF say that its teams are working in the field to measure the extent of loss and their final assessment would be available soon. But a top official of DOF points out that the losses may have been limited to a certain extent as this is the off-season for certain types of shrimp farming. ‘Fortunately, since this was an off-season for Bagda cultivation in the costal areas, according to our rough estimates, the loss may be around Tk 50 crore,” said a top official of DOF.

According to a primary assessment of the forest department (FD) about one fourth of the four lakh plus hectares of forest area of Sundarbans, has been damaged by Cyclone Sidr. The forest department officials inform that are yet to get a complete estimate of the damage inflicted upon the wildlife of the forest that provides livelihood for more than two million people. So far the department has found only 30 carcasses of deer, along with two human bodies. The department has also found a single evidence of death of Bengal Tiger.

Forest department officials say that the monetary value of the damage however has not been assessed yet. The forest department also has yet to start assessing the damage done to the trees in the affected areas outside the forest. However, the DMCR says that 3369366 trees have destroyed by Sidr. Sidr hit the eastern parts of the forest, especially Chandpai range including Kochikhali, Kotka, Hiron Point, and Dublarchar, leaving a trail of severe devastation.

Forest department officials say the south-eastern part of the forest sustained the main blow of the cyclone, saving human lives by slowing down the nature’s wrath. ‘The area of the Sundarbans is six lakh hectares. One fourth of the Sundarbans forest area has been damaged by the cyclone. Eight to ten percent of the forest has been damaged completely, and those trees will not grow, while fifteen percent has been partly damaged, a part of which will grow back,’ said a forest department official.

Officials of the ministry of health and family welfare (MOHFW) admit that the ministry fears an outbreak of diarrhoea and other water-borne diseases in the Sidr-affected areas which suffer from acute shortage of safe water and trained manpower to tackle such disaster.

‘The areas facing the most acute drinking water crisis are in most of the inaccessible areas, where relief agencies have hardly set foot. The pond is blackened by now-rotting trees that fell on the water during the cyclone. The poor quality of the water is evident as dead fishes are floating on the surface. Since all deep tube-wells are malfunctioning and all but two shallow tube-wells have been destroyed, people might drink water from unsafe sources,’ says an official of MOHFW.

Officials of MOFHW insist that outbreak of diarrhoea, pneumonia; eye soaring, typhoid, hepatitis and skin diseases are now major concerns for the government. ‘It would become an epidemic if any of the infectious diseases breaks out in shelter homes crowded with hundreds of homeless people,’ the official admits.

MOHFW officials admit that thousands of cyclone-affected people are being haunted by memories of family members killed by the deadly cyclone and may experience traumatic disorders. The people in the cyclone-ravaged areas may also suffer from stress-related disorders that might take a long time to cure. Therefore they need special treatment by psychiatrists. Dr Abul Barakat, professor of economics at Dhaka University also said that psychological trauma and the cost of treating injuries should also be included in the calculation of the property loss.

Nayeem Gawher Wara, emergency focal person of Save the Children-UK points out that the children are suffering the most from psychological trauma as elders are busy jostling for relief. ‘How will they care for their kids when they do not even know if they would get the minimum food they need to live on. ‘Deaths of parents and family members have left most of the children traumatised. It is very important to help them recover from the psychological damage,’ he added.

Education ministry official say that academic activities of around 10,000 institutions in 30 districts have been seriously disrupted because of the devastating cyclone Sidr, which badly damaged schools, colleges and madrassahs and education materials in these areas. Around 4,800 primary schools have been affected by Sidr and around 1,000 of them have been badly damaged. The annual examinations of classes I-X are scheduled to begin from December 3 while the first year exams of HSC students will start in the first week of December. The government had to adjourn exams at many institutions that went under floodwater while others were used as shelters for the flood-affected people. But officials reassure that delays are not expected this time around.

‘1,335 educational institutes in 30 districts, especially Bagerhat, Barguna, Patuakhali, Pirojpur, Bhola, Jhalakathi and Barisal, were completely damaged by Sidr. Only a few brick-built institutions survived the cyclone’s impact while 7,893 were damaged partially. A good number of books for primary level students are stored in the district education offices and the ministry has already directed the district education officers to distribute them among the students of the affected areas. So we are not expecting a delay,’ says the ministry official.

Damages to the infrastructure have also been massive. Rural Electrification Board (REB) has not yet been able to restore electricity supply. About 20 thousand kilometres of power supply lines out of 25 thousand kilometres under different Palli Biddut Samity (PBS) supplies have been damaged. Power supply is yet to be restored eleven days after the cyclone ravaged the area. The area includes nine districts of Barisal, Patuakhali, Barguna, Pirojpur, Bhola, Jhalakati, Madaripur, Shariatpur and Gopalganj.

The effect

Economists say that the effects of Sidr may endanger food security at the household and compel the government to spend a much higher amount of foreign exchange to import food-grain to meet the huge shortfall. Wahiduddin Mahmud, a senior economist forecasts a negative impact of the deficiency of food-grain on the market prices and also said it would create a livelihood crisis in the cyclone-affected areas unless massive relief works and post-cyclone rehabilitation programmes are undertaken right now.

‘The devastating cyclone, coming in the wake of prolonged floods, has dealt a severe blow to the livelihoods of a very large section of the population. The shortfall in the harvest of Aman rice will now be too large to be recouped by even a bumper Boro harvest,’ said Wahiduddin.

Wahiduddin predicted that while taking on the job of post-cyclone rehabilitation, the government would be inhibited by the already escalating budget deficit caused by subsidies for food, petroleum products and fertiliser, which alone might cost the government exchequer up to Tk 9,000 crore.  ‘Not only would there be shortfall in food supply, the people would also lack purchasing power,’ added Wahiduddin.

Relief Operations

The Government of Bangladesh has swung into motion to rescue thousands of coastal dwellers, and has launched a relief operation with the support of international and local donors and volunteers. Yet, for people in remote villages, the relief has not arrived on time, and there is still uncertainty as to when it will actually arrive.

According to witnesses and volunteers, despite intensified relief operations by the government and local and foreign groups, thousands of survivors hoping for food were crowding river banks and roadsides. A number of data further point towards the fact that relief had not reached to countless worst affected areas.

‘There are still a number of worst hit areas which have not been reached,’ points out Dr Ainun Nishat, country director of IUCN Bangladesh. ‘That is simply because more relief goes into accessible areas rather than the remote ones. It is the responsibility of the Disaster Management Bureau (DMB) to ensure that it coordinates the whole operation and also links the community so that they can work together.’

The DMB officials on the other hand stress that they have been reaching out to the worst affected areas and their relief operation has been intensified. ‘We have reached to the four worst hit districts and continue our operations extensively,’ says G.M. Monsur Rahman, Director, Relief and Operations, DMB. According to Rahman, five thousand people have been given relief. ‘Starting from the beginning of next month, we will be supplying 38,850 metric tonnes of rice till March.’

‘The more effective rehabilitation program lies in ensuring the long term solvency for the worst affected people,’ says Dr. Nishat. ‘There is no point supplying them with only food for a few months, they need longer term solvency. What will happen to these people after a few months?’

According to aid workers, getting fresh water to victims remains to be a priority as the prospect of outbreaks of water-borne diseases looms. Many of those in coastal districts have seen their traditional sources of drinking water contaminated by saline water, which cannot be treated by water purification tablets. ‘Very few water purifying plants have been set up,’ points out Dr. Quasi Quamruzzaman, Chairman, Dhaka Community Hospital.

US marines from the USS Kearsarge, anchored off the southern coast, joined the aid effort last Friday with medical evacuations and air lifts of water supplies to some of the worst hit areas like Barguna.

Officials from the UN World Food Programme say they have been providing extensive food and relief assistance. They are also sending energy biscuits for 400,000 people.

Apart from this, several international organisations and donors have also poured in aid within the country. The German government offered 731,345 dollars, while the European Union released 2.2 million dollars in relief aid. The Rome-based World Food Program has sent out food, and the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society has sent a number of workers to the remote areas. ‘100,000 households will be provided with packages consisiting of 20 kgs of rice, 4 kgs of dal and 4 litres of Soy bean oil,’ said officials of Red Cresent. ‘Already total relief worth 74 lakh has been sent out.’

Washington has sent two US Navy amphibious assault craft to help authorities in relief and rescue operations.

Despite intensified relief opeartions, experts feel it is yet to be effective and reach out the worst areas, ‘Morover, more concrete and long term steps need to be taken,’ says economist Anu Muhammad. ‘The quality of packages of food that are coming in is again questionable. They are dropping packs from aircrafts into the water and, from past experience, we know that most of these are also rotten.’

Anu also mentions that the livlihood of those affected need to be taken into consideration.

‘They were in a distressed state long before the cyclone had hit these regions. After such disasters, it just becomes clear that the many NGOs poverty alleviation programs have not brought any change at all. If we need to take long term and concrete steps, it should start with the rehabilitation of these areas- restructuring and builiding infrastructure and creating opportunities.’

Health remains to be a major issue to be taken into consideration. ‘There are too few shelter homes and medications to treat the countless people across the affected areas. At the moment, a major concern remains to be the infections that are spreading,’ says Dr. Quamruzzaman. Apart from the infections, the cyclone has brought diseases such as diarrhoea, malaria and more.

Relief Coordination

Up to November 26, the official statistics charted more than seven million people affected in the devastating hurricane SIDR. Due to a lack of coordination as Lieutenant General Masud Uddin Chowdhury, principal staff officer of the Armed Forces Division pointed out on November 25, the relief arriving from all across the world for people in the affected regions is however, not effectively distributed among the sufferers. Some of the areas are having repetitions of relief distribution while some are going without any relief at all. Organisations distributing their relief goods in awareness of the district administration have witnessed others distributing relief in same areas without keeping any coordination with the local administration, he observed.

The caretaker government, the armed forces division, private organisations, associations, businessmen and many other donor agencies have come forward with their relief substances but they are having a difficult time in the coordination process, sources admit to New Age.

The director general of Department of Relief and Rehabilitation, Sadaruddin Ahmed, mentions that all government funds and materials are effectively distributed with proper channel of coordination.

Because of the earlier floods this year and having experiences with previous cyclones, the relief department has been well prepared this time. ‘We have relief foods stocked in district and upazila levels, which people are not aware of,’ says Sadaruddin.

Whatever problems are arising in the distribution process is happening more due to lack of information than coordination, he says. That the deputy commissioner should be the medium for any relief distribution, was decided in a cabinet meeting on November 24.

Since the middle of 1960s the relief department was established following a relief manual, which was later renamed to relief code. During disaster and crises periods, the deputy commissioner has always coordinated the relief efforts. However, in the current situation, an effective coordination is not possible without empowering the DCs, says Mohammad Asafuddowlah, a former bureaucrat. ‘This is exactly the reason why in some areas there are multiple donors distributing relief and in some, there is none.’

From this week the District Administration, Armed Forces Division (AFD), Department of Relief and Rehabilitation and the Chief Advisor’s Office are separately collecting relief. However, except for the Chief Advisor’s Office none are authorised to collect cash grants or relief funds.

The AFD is responsible for transporting the relief materials in coordination with an approximately 2,300-member US marine and defence team that has arrived in the country with its navy ship USS Kearsarge. Although Kearsarge is expected to be replaced by another navy ship USS Tarawa in a few days, officials have confirmed that it will have the same services available.

A total of three hovercrafts, two C130 fixed wing aircrafts and 20 helicopters of the US defence are being utilised for relief transportation in the affected regions. A coordination centre has been opened in Barisal this week which is acting as the hub for relief distribution, says Major JM Emdadul Islam of AFD.

The Defence forces have established 92 helipads in the affected regions for quick access and relief distribution, General Moeen U Ahmed, army chief said on November 25 at a press conference. More helipads are on the process to be made wherever relief materials are not reaching the affected people, said Emdadul Islam at a meeting on Sunday at the AFD.

‘We are regularly exchanging information between the government organisations working on the relief efforts and therefore any repetition is unexpected,’ says Sadaruddin.

A foreign aid coordination cell has been opened at the airport where we have six of our officials deputed. All the funds and relief materials that are arriving from the foreign governments are received and dispatched in coordination with the Disaster Management Bureau, he tells New Age. So far, relief has been received from India, Pakistan, Italy, Spain and USA through the government channel.

‘Any projection on the time to cover the relief distribution and rehabilitation will require at least three months for determining,’ says Sadaruddin.

The Bangladesh Red Crescent Society supported by the International Federation of Red Cross is however, running its independent relief operation in coordination with the district administration and Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) to ascertain locations where people require relief.

The Red Crescent has selected 18 districts to concentrate on out of the 31 affected districts. Relief substances worth Tk 74 lakh have so far been disseminated across the 18 districts while there are more funds waiting in the pipeline. It is now working out the disbursement of 2, 50,000 Swiss Franc from Emergency Disaster Response Fund of the Swiss Red Cross, said an official of the Red Crescent on November 25.

‘We have made an emergency appeal of Tk 140 crore to the Secretariat in Geneva which is in the process to launch an appeal centrally,’ says Captain BN (Retd) Mostafa Kamal, deputy secretary general of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society.

In addition, a number of foreign Red Cross and Red Crescent societies that have arrived in the country are independently conducting their assessments for relief grants.

‘Although the initial food relief were made in small quantities, we are on the verge to distribute a package of 20 kilogramme rice, 4 kg lintels and 2-litre soybean oil to 100,000 families in the nine worst affected districts that the government has divided in two tiers.’

‘Initially we could not reach the remote places because of road blocks and lack of transport but the situation has improved since the incident happened,’ says Mostafa. The Red Crescent is transporting its relief materials through its six trucks in Dhaka which offload the goods to its local units.

‘The doctors of our medical teams are at the job throughout the day as long as service and drugs are available. About 203 patients on average are visiting the Red Crescent clinics in the affected regions.’

A total of 18 medical teams have been formed and by the next two months another 12 will be added. The medical teams are working in coordination with the administration regarding the location for service, he says.

‘The next two months of the winter will be required entirely to provide medical treatment to the affected. Our plan is to continue this effort for at least the next six months which may be extended as per requirement,’ says a health coordinator of the Red Crescent.

The relief funds that we are receiving will take at least the next six months to fully utilise among the affected while the total rehabilitation process will require two years.

‘We have not studied the relief requirement in different areas but we are trying to meet the demand on priority basis,’ says Emdadul.

The DRR has selected 12 districts out of the initial 31 affected for distributing one and a half lakh metric tonne rice to 25.90 lakh families, says GM Mansur Rahman, director, relief and rehabilitation of the Disaster Management Bureau. ‘Relief requirements are gradually coming down. The remaining 19 districts can serve with the existing relief sanctioned from their regional relief stocks,’ he says.

Every family will continue to receive 15 kg rice up to March next year. In the worst affected districts like Bagerhat, Barguna, Patuakhali and Pirojpur, the distribution will be made among 5,000 people per union while the remaining eight districts will have grants for 2,500 people per union.

‘The effective population for the distribution will be ascertained by November 30 and the programme will begin from December 1,’ says Mansur. Food relief is available in every district as soon as it is sanctioned from the DMB and does not require to be transported as they are regionally stocked.

Any location for distribution is opted based on ground officials’ information. ‘The bridge failure on November 24 at the Kalapara upazila of Patuakhali district has been a lesson for us and we will be more careful from the next time,’ Emdadul told the media on Sunday.

‘However, the relief distribution carried in that area was not conducted by any government organisation,’ says an official source. ‘It was a private organisation that chose the location without informing the deputy commissioner of its relief work.’

‘The unions in every upazila have begun listing the victims in three tiers as the worst affected, affected and partially affected which will later be forwarded to the Upazila Nirbahi Officer to make decisions for relief distribution,’ says Sufi Zahiruddin, a former chairman of the Madbari upazila in the Pirojpur district.

Rehabilitation

The government has created a three-phase post-cyclone relief and rehabilitation programmes so that the Sidr victims may return to normal life. The MOFDM sources say that they have created both short and long term rehabilitation programmes for the cyclone-hit areas, which include repair of damaged roads and houses as well as saving the Sundarbans. ‘The one-month, short-term plan includes rescue, burial services, disposal of corpses, emergency service restoration, emergency relief, repairing drinking water sources and damage assessment. The four-month, medium-term rehabilitation programme, between December and March, focuses on house building, continuation of food support, reopening of educational institutions, preventing outbreak of epidemics and repair of roads, culverts and bridges,’ says the MOFDM official.

MOFDM officials inform that the government will run Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF) programme from December to March in the 12 districts. Fifteen kilograms of rice will be given to every VGF cardholder per month free of cost. The government will distribute 5,000 VGF cards among the poor in each union and pourasava in the four worst-affected districts. In the eight other districts, 2,000 VGF cards will be distributed in each union and poursava. A total of 25,90,000 cards will be distributed in the districts.

MOFDM officials said the government needs at least 10.68 lakh metric tonnes of food grains for the next seven months for different relief programmes. It needs 32,000 MT for gross relief programme, 2.01 lakh MT for vulnerable group feeding (VGF), 1.5 lakh MT for Test Relief, 1.85 lakh MT for the food for work programme, 2.5 lakh MT for open market sale (OMS), and 2.5 lakh MT for other programmes. The current stock of food grains in the country stands at 7.37 lakh MT while another 3.25 MT is in the pipeline.

The government has asked for five lakh metric tonnes of rice from the international community as assistance for tackling any possible food crisis in the country.

Ministry of Finance (MOF) officials say that the government has decided to allow farmers in the cyclone-hit areas to reschedule their outstanding farm loans they took from the state-owned banks. Cyclone-affected farmers would also be provided with fresh loans so that they can recover from the losses.

The government has decided to ask non-governmental organisations not to pressure cyclone victims to repay instalments of loans. News reports say that micro credit providers of the country are considering writing off over Tk 600 crore outstanding loans of some 7.5 lakh borrowers, severely affected by the cyclone. Although the micro credit providers are not going to make an announcement of the write-off right now, they might finally write the loans off since the small borrowers lost most of their houses, businesses, and other assets. In 12 south and south-western districts, some Tk 1,159 crore in loan remains outstanding with 15 lakh people, with 42 micro credit organisations operating in the region.

The MOF officials say that they have directed the state-owned banks to expedite the process of loan disbursement. The government has decided to lend Tk 130 crore from the fund of the finance ministry in soft credit to cyclone-stricken small traders and fishermen as well as for livestock and poultry for the revival of shattered livelihoods. ‘The MOF will disburse the funds through PKSF, which will operate the fund through micro-finance providing organisations,’ says an MOF official.

The MOFHW officials say that roughly 690 medical teams are working in 57 upazilas. Besides, 90 medical teams from 32 private medical colleges are also working in the affected areas. DCRM says that 5,140 tubewells out of 10,200 cyclone-damaged units have been repaired. Some 568 new tubewells have been sent to the affected areas, he said. Some 3.3 million water-purifying tablets, 8,000 jerrycans and drinking water were sent to the affected people.

Filed under: Environment No Comments
28Nov/070

‘Incredible’ response to Sidr

Care Bangladesh has been involved in the relief operation since cyclone Sidr made landfall in the southern coasts on November 15. Its country director, Nick Southern, talked about the local, national and international response in the aftermath of the cyclone, which killed more than 3,000 people and made hundreds of thousands homeless, in an interview with New Age recently. Faheem Khan, team leader of Shouhardo, one of the Care initiatives in Bangladesh, also took part in the conversation. Excerpts:

What is the overall situation of aid in Bangladesh after the cyclone?
Nick Southern: I think the response has been incredible. Bangladesh has had many disasters and natural calamities. The death toll this time around has been much lower than what it used to be previously. Also, we now see an international commitment towards Bangladesh. Many countries are pouring in aid for Bangladesh as it goes through such a difficult time.

I would say this is a good opportunity for Bangladesh to address issues that need to be resolved. Moreover, internationally, an issue such as global warming is also going to become more prominent, especially because Bangladesh is one of the worst-affected countries even though it has no contribution to the issue of climate change.

How was the response at the local level? Is there sufficient information available?
NS: I think the response was commendable – both before the cyclone hit the regions and in the aftermath. We can say this because the government efforts to ensure that people are aware was much better than before. There were volunteers on the road till the last minute warning people of the cyclone. However, there was also the issue of a significant number of people not being aware, but then again, we must understand that many anticipated it would be a storm surge rather than cyclone. Moreover, the cyclone went the opposite direction and it took a while to react to it.
The death toll has been much less this time and the rescue operation has been very prominent. I would say there is more information available at the moment. The estimates of death tolls are also closer among various bodies. Although the communication lines were cut off immediately after the cyclone hit, steps were taken to ensure to make the operation faster. There is also much more development work going on and more concrete steps being taken.

Care is one of the organisations participating in the relief work. What are the things that you are doing?
Faheem Khan: We anticipated that the cyclone would hit and sent a team on Wednesday (November 14) midnight to Khulna. We sent out two trucks of non-food items such as candles, plastic sheets and others. We also provided for a mobile water purifying plant. Initially, we had about 13 volunteers, but at this moment it has expanded to some 40 people who are working in Barguna and Sarankhola in Bagerhat.

NS: One of the challenges was that usually such disasters hit the south-eastern region, where the community is more prepared and aware. In the southern belt, it’s the first time that such a cyclone has hit and hence the awareness of people was very low. Hence, we have had to ensure that we can cater to them and also provide information.

Until now, we have distributed 1,100 tonnes of food. Around half a million dollars’ budget is being processed to reach out to more people. We already have $2 million in the pipeline as well.

The USAID has been one of the major donors in this case. Apart from many other donors, we have funding from the Canadian and Australian governments, Microsoft Bangladesh and others. We are also working through four major partners – RIC, Prodipan, Coast and SAP Bangladesh.

In terms of taking immediate as well as long-term steps for disaster management, what do you think could be done?
FK: We do have a central coordination body, Disaster Emergency Response, which works with different agencies in order to take immediate steps when such a situation arises.

NS: I think the important thing is to set out priorities. There are about 5 million people who have been affected by the cyclone. There are a significant number of people who have lost almost everything – so we need to reach out to these people who need it more than perhaps the rest. Being able to identify such priorities and also have immediate decision makers in those areas.

In case of disaster management, CARE has been working with ADPC based in Bangkok and planning on issues of earthquake preparedness and flood forecasting.
We are in fact developing software that can forecast a cyclone 10 days in advance and determine its level and intensity, and also chart the probable regions it may hit. We are hoping to pilot it this season. This early flood forecasting software is in the analysis stage. We are now looking to make others aware as to how to interpret it and how they will be able to react to it.

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9Nov/070

And the pain lingers on…

Violence against women cuts across social and economic situations and is deeply embedded in cultures around the world – so much so that millions of women consider it a way of life.

— Cate Johnson

As darkness descends and silence surfaces, she shuts every window of her room. She bolts the door from insider and switches on the light – it won’t be switched off until morning. Then she goes to the bathroom, sits on the floor and turns on the shower. As cold water pours over her body, she scrubs every part of body. ‘The smell refuses to go away,’ she mutters, as tears roll down her cheeks and mixed indiscernibly with the bathwater.

This has been the routine for Tania (not her real name) for the past two years.

The family was ecstatic. Her uncle had come to visit them after a long break.

‘He went to Sweden when I was about nine,’ recalls Tania. ‘I had vague but unpleasant memories about him. He would make me sit on his lap and kiss me whenever he got a chance. There was something about the way he would touch me that made me disgusted and frightened. Once I talked to ma [mother] about this. She slapped me and said such a though should never cross my mind. After all, he was like a father to me.’

Seven years later when he came back, Tania had grown into a beautiful young woman. ‘The moment he hugged me tight, the memories flashed back. I knew what he was after.’

However, she could not talk to anyone about her fears. Her father had left them years ago and her uncle’s visit to their house meant they might get some financial support from her paternal family. ‘Moreover, my mother had started to like him,’ Tania says.

She tried hard to avoid him but he would always find ways to hold her from behind, bump into her, caress her and sometimes force her to sit on her lap. One night, as she went to the kitchen to get some water, her uncle grabbed her from behind. ‘I just ran out of the kitchen and went straight to ma. I knew there was no point in telling her but still I hoped she would believe me this time around. She didn’t. Instead, she said I must have done something; after all, he did not touch my sister. I went back to my room thinking something might be wrong with me.’

Her fears were not unreal.

That very night, Tania woke up with a start. There was someone beside her. ‘I tried to scream but he held my mouth,’ she shudders as she recalls the dreadful night.

She was raped again and again, for hours, by her own uncle.

‘It’s not a big deal, ma says. She says every girl is subjected to one form of abuse or the other,’ Tania says disdainfully.

‘It haunts me every moment, every day. Those images keep coming back and his smell would just not go away. Sometimes I blame myself and sometimes I blame everyone for letting it happen.’

Tania is not an exception. Studies show that around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or abused in some other way — most often by someone she knows, including her husband or another male member of the family or a man she has been close to.

The World Health Organisation has recently surveyed 24,000 women in 10 countries, including Japan and Brazil, and Ethiopia and Bangladesh. The survey report, titled ‘Multi country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against Women’, said one in every six women surveyed were abused and domestic violence was more prevalent in poorer countries like Bangladesh.

The percentage of women who had been physically or sexually attacked by their partners in the preceding year was 4 in Japan and Serbia, compared with between 30 and 54 in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Peru and Tanzania.

While the survey report indicates a significant incidence of sexual abuse – within the family or outside – there are very few cases that are reported. Moreover, little has been done to prevent such incidents or support the women who have undergone such physical and mental trauma.

Experts blame such inactions on patriarchy.

‘We live in a patriarchal society,’ says Farida Akhtar, executive director of UBINIG. ‘The sources of power and authority within the family, society and the state remain in the hands of men. It’s more like the power relation that we see between a rich and a poor country. The power relation exists between men and women. Men in this case hold the power.’

It is due to the traditional setting of society that such incidents continue to occur, agrees Sultana Kamal, executive director, Ain O Salish Kendra and a former advisor to the caretaker government. ‘In a patriarchal society, rules, laws and norms are all set by the dominant group, i.e. men. Over the years, society has come to a unique understanding – that is to be in denial over such issues, shirk from such responsibilities and blame women.’

There are countless incidents that show women have been blamed and further humiliated after being sexually assaulted. ‘Badhon’s case is an example of how the state and society chose to shirk from its responsibility and impose further humiliation on women,’ says Sultana Kamal.

In 2000, Badhan, a young woman, joined others in New Year’s celebrations on the Dhaka University campus, perhaps believing she would be safe. As she reached the venue, she was greeted with obscene remarks. At one point, she was almost stripped naked and molested by a gang of men, while the police and a host of others looked on.

When the case went to the court of law, the state and society revealed their ignorance about the basic rights of women. According to a BBC report, Joynal Hazari, then a lawmaker from Feni, said the woman assaulted on New Year’s eve was herself to blame for the attack. Moreover, Badhon was blamed to have worn ‘inappropriate clothes’ and ‘being out so late at night.’

‘When you see countless incidents such as these, you better remain silent. After all, it’s the woman who has to lose everything she has,’ says Razia Sultana, a 45-year-old housewife.

‘Our society has been shaped with certain beliefs and norms from which it refuses to shift,’ says Ferdousi Hannan, who teaches sociology at Dhaka University. ‘Issues and reactions such as this stem from the culture of silence on part of women. In many ways, we can say, when a victim is being blamed like this, it is society’s attempt to deny such crude facts.’

‘Since childhood, we have been told that women have to go through one form of abuse or the other,’ says Munia, a 20-year-old garment worker. ‘It is never even considered that the abuser may be at fault. I guess it is a part of life that we have to live with.’

‘Society’s attitude towards women who have been abused is appalling,’ says Farida Akhtar. ‘Most of the time, if not always, the woman is looked down upon, as though she has called such incidents upon herself. Not only does she endure the mental trauma but she also takes on the humiliation. So, it’s not the abuser who is answerable or under question.’

Justification for violence stems from gender norms — distorted views about the roles and responsibilities of men and women in relationships, adds Farida.

It is due to this long-standing humiliation that women take the blame upon themselves and often come to justify it in their own terms, say experts.

‘In most cases, a woman who has been abused seems to believe that it is her fault and that she has brought it upon herself,’ says Dr Omar Rahman, pro-vice chancellor of the Independent University of Bangladesh and research fellow for psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

According to him, about 95 per cent of the times, cases show that the sexual assault was done by someone in the family or someone close. ‘That is exactly the reason for the silence. Because, according to the traditional norms of society, the respect for family comes first. Hence, even if a family member abuses or rapes a woman, the woman remains silent.’

Although more recent and known cases such as those of Tania, Sheema, Swapna, etc are related to poor families, experts say there are, in fact, an alarmingly high number of cases among middle-class and affluent families and in almost all the cases, the victims chose to remain silent.

‘There is a preconceived notion that such sexual assaults only happen to the poor. It is through cases and patients who come to us that we see a significant percentage of the victims are from affluent families,’ says Dr Omar. ‘The prevalence of incest is also significantly high. Often, girls are abused by their family members when they are as young as six or so.’

‘Ironically, women living in the remote villages are more vocal about such issues,’ UM Habibun Nessa, member of Nari Pokkho and also a lawyer of the Supreme Court. ‘Women in villages and poorer families have begun to speak about it and share it with others. But this is not true in case of middle-class or affluent families. They tend to remain silent so as not to embarrass the family.’

‘The middle-class women, even if they are abused and tortured by their husbands or someone close, often chose to remain silent,’ agrees Farida Akhtar. ‘This is because she feels a greater sense of insecurity than a poor woman does. She thinks she has more to lose than a poor woman.’

Many rapes go unreported because of the stigma and trauma associated with them and the lack of sympathetic treatment from the legal system, say experts.

‘In fact, we do not even see statistics or research on issues because women often refuse to speak up,’ says Ferdousi Hannan. ‘Women who have experienced violence in their life end up having all kinds of problems, physical and psychological. They generally have miscarriages and abortions. Also, many of them display suicidal tendencies.’

‘In order to prevent such incidents, we need to ensure that every educational institute and workplace, be it in rural or urban areas, has a comfort zone for women, where they may speak up and not keep it bottled up. That way, not only will the families be aware of the truth but society will also know such cases are coming to light and being accepted, instead of being rejected outright,’ says Habibun Nessa.

Many agree that there has been a significant improvement over the past one decade. ‘People do see it as a crime and they are more sensitive to such issues,’ says Habibun Nessa.

‘Women have certainly become more vocal about such issues,’ says Sultana Kamal. ‘In the past ten years, there has been a great degree of women’s movement. However, on an individual level, at the core of the social system, we have in many ways failed to bring a change. It is the state, the laws, the norms that are made from a male perspective that need to be changed. The root cause and power play of dominance need to be changed in order to break this vicious cycle.’

‘Sexual abuse is always a harsh truth to deal with. Even those hear who comes to know about one such case or the other prefer not to delve into it because of the horror associated with it. For those who go through such experiences, they are scarred for life. Most of the time, women are unable to deal with it. Very few women actually come out of it, although that incident remains with them for the rest of their lives,’ Dr Omar says.

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9Nov/070

‘The King can do no wrong’

New Age: Why is there a norm of silence among women who are sexually abused at some point of their lives?

Sultana Kamal: Our society has been shaped in such a way that every time a woman is abused or sexually harassed, she feels that she has instigated that incident in some way or the other. In fact, our culture has taught women to look at life like that- it is their fault that they have been abused. The question of honour, the need for respect and honour is so pronounced as well, that women also chose to remain silent.

We also have numerous examples of women who have been taught to believe that their body is their own enemy. The irony is that instead of blaming the perpetrator, it is the victim who is, invariably blamed. So, the woman who has been abused is not only living with a scar that will last a life time but also deal with the numerous blames and mental trauma that comes after she has gone through something that horrific. Moreover, the society, the state and the law are shaped by the patriarchy and it is almost a given fact that women are ought to remain silent.

NA: What would you say about the preconceived notion that most people have about the fact that sexual abuse is less prevalent in middle class families than the poor?

SK: Sexual abuse is prevalent in middle class families to a horrific rate. It is also important to mention that, be it a woman from middle class family or a poor family- the extent of damage and torment after being sexually harassed is the same. There is no difference in the way it hits them. But, ironically the norm of silence is more prevalent among the middle class families. A woman from the middle class family has a lot more to lose, because she is so much more dependent on the society and her position in it. Hence, she strives more, to restore that statement of identity. For a woman, who comes from a less fortunate and poor background, the case is different. Even though she is not educated and confident, she is more vocal about it and most of the time they do speak of their own experiences more easily.

NA: What role does the law and the state play in these cases? Are they supportive in any way?

SK: We live in a patriarchal society, where the law and the norms are set by the dominant group. Men have been given the sole power to set out the laws, but they do not have the responsibilities to abide with them. The laws hence have been set out from a male perspective and they are rather crude.

Because of the long struggles and the woman’s movement, the world has come to an understanding that sexual abuse is wrong. But, what remains to be a finer contradiction is that the law and the state do not seem to enforce laws strongly. While women have been consistently struggling to gain a certain position, the more dominant group remains to be the men and they remain to be the decision makers. The fact that the power and control is not distributed equally and justly- remains a challenge. Moreover, for the state, such issues, especially, domestic abuse, remains a private matter and there is no intervention.

NA: Why would you say incest is so prevalent?

SK: There is once again a strong denial to deal with such a serious issue. In general, every individual’s right ought to be fulfilled by the state. Now, there are also certain maxims- the greatest being “The King can do no wrong” and if the King does anything wrong it is not wrong.

Now, let’s look at the political arena- the doctrines of the political practices are the ones that set out the rest of the society. If the attitude of the state and the law makers reflect ignorance, then so will the families, and thus the prevalence of things such as incest. It is a whole cycle- the family, society and the state. Inside the family, there is a certain discourse used between men and women. There is a question of unequal inheritance and men remain to be the decision makers. When a healthy standard of democratisation is ensured and the state policy is just, only then will it show through in the families.

NA: Do we see any glint of hope?

SK: Yes we do. In the last ten years, we have seen significant amount of improvement. We have in fact come a long way. The number of horrific cases has significantly gone down. But, it is true that we have not been able to achieve any success in the domestic level.

It is a matter of culture and how the social norms have been shaped and hence, it can only be enforced by the law and change in the attitude of the state. Given that the state policy is unbiased and the laws are more friendly, and the conscious of people is changed, things can certainly change.

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