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WFP aid for five million people ravaged by floods in Bangladesh


DHAKA - With the receding floodwaters in Bangladesh now revealing the full scale of the destruction in this South Asian nation, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced today it is launching a year-long US$74 million operation to give food to five million people hardest hit by the disaster.

WFP urged the international community to support this emergency operation, which comes after epic floods killed more than 600 people, ruined some two million acres of farmland, and left 20 million people in need of food assistance over the next 12 months. The Government of Bangladesh estimates that the floods, the biggest since 1998, have incurred some US$7 billion in damage to the country.

"The plight of the people in Bangladesh is heartbreaking," said WFP Representative Douglas Casson Coutts. "From the capital to the most remote rural areas, tens of millions of people have seen their homes destroyed and their sources of food and income snatched away by these floods. Tens of thousands are suffering from diarrhoea and other water-borne diseases. They desperately need help."

Coutts warned that while the floodwaters have been receding, further rains in the coming days could bring a cataclysmic flood, with fresh downfalls unable to drain into the already waterlogged ground.

WFP, which has already given rations of high-energy biscuits and rice to nearly two million people, will undertake the new operation in four phases which reflect the changing needs and priorities of the Bangladeshi people in the year leading up to the next annual monsoon season in 2005.

In the first phase, five million people will receive 30 kilograms of rice per month in August, September and October. In the second phase, in November and December, the number of beneficiaries drops to three million and two million respectively, as Bangladeshis recover their household stability and go back to such income-generation activities as animal rearing and fish farming.

During the third phase, from January to March 2005, WFP will shift its assistance from pure relief to food-for-work programmes, giving two million people per month rice rations in return for their labour in rebuilding roads and houses. In the last four months of the operation, from April to July, two million people will participate in food for work projects designed to bolster communities against the annual monsoon season.

"We have planned as carefully as possible to reach the neediest and most vulnerable people in Bangladesh as the country pulls itself out of the disaster," said Coutts. "At the same time, we have to be mindful of the volatility of the climate. If we get another series of floods this month, we will be facing even greater food needs because the impact on the rice harvest will be catastrophic."

Coutts explained that flash floods in April knocked out over 80 percent of the "boro" rice crop in certain areas of the country. The "aman" rice crop, representing half of national production, should be planted now but the land is still waterlogged from the July floods, which also washed away household food stocks and people's few sources of income like livestock rearing or agricultural day labour.

As concern about the Bangladesh flood victims mounts across the globe, WFP is coordinating the overall emergency response of the UN, the NGO community and the donors with the Government of Bangladesh, whose representatives have combined to form the Disaster Emergency Response Group.

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: in 2003 we gave food aid to a record 104 million people in 81 countries, including 56 million hungry children.

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Douglas Casson Coutts
WFP Representative Bangladesh
Tel. +880-2-8116344, 8119064-73

Usha Mishra Joshi
Policy and Advocacy Adviser
Tel. +880-2-8116344

M. Emamul Haque
Head Advocacy Unit
Tel. +880-2-8116344, 8119064-73, Ext 2189
Cell: 017-301-3983

Heather Hill
WFP Public Affairs Bangladesh
Cell. 880 189 225744 or 661 701 9208

Brenda Barton
Deputy Director Communications
Tel. +39-06-65132602
Mob. +39-3472582217

Gregory Barrow
Tel. +44-20-75929292
Mob. +44-7968-008474

Christiane Berthiaume
Tel. +41-22-9178564
Mob. +41-79-2857304

Trevor Rowe
Tel. +1-212-9635196
Mob. +1-646-8241112

Jordan Dey
Tel. +1-202-6530010 ext. 1149
Mob. +1-202-4223383