Bangladesh tries new way to aid flood-hit families: cash up front

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Flood-affected people wade through flooded water in Jamalpur, Bangladesh, on July 21, 2019. (REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain)
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Flood-affected people receives water purifying tablets from volunteers in Jamalpur, Bangladesh, on July 21, 2019. (REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain)
Updated 26 July 2019

Bangladesh tries new way to aid flood-hit families: cash up front

  • Severe flooding after two weeks of heavy monsoon rain has killed at least 61 people, displaced nearly 800,000, and inundated thousands of homes across Bangladesh
  • Low-lying Bangladesh is extremely vulnerable to climate change

DHAKA: Parvin Begum, who saw her home on a secluded island in northern Bangladesh steadily devoured by floods this month, feels lucky.
She received some money before the disaster hit under a new form of aid, used for the first time in Bangladesh by the government and humanitarian agencies.
It gives funding to vulnerable people in advance of extreme weather, based on forecasts, so they are better prepared. With her cash, Begum bought food, rented a boat, and took her belongings to a government shelter on a nearby island before the rising water crossed the danger level.
“This is one of the worst floods I have seen in many years,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Kurigram, a town located about 350 km (217.5 miles) north of Dhaka.
“Things were easier for me because I received 4,500 taka ($53.42) and was prepared — otherwise I would have struggled a lot.”
Severe flooding after two weeks of heavy monsoon rain has killed at least 61 people, displaced nearly 800,000, and inundated thousands of homes across Bangladesh, government officials said this week.
Nearly 3 million people are struggling with the impacts of the floods, the worst in two years, according to the disaster management and relief ministry.
Low-lying Bangladesh is extremely vulnerable to climate change, and researchers say people like Begum, who live on river islands that erode and form again, far away from the mainland, are on the frontline.
According to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), Begum is one of 25,000 people in Kurigram district who received aid money via their mobile phones, under the new “forecast-based financing” project.
“This approach uses weather forecasts to trigger early actions such as cash transfers, that can help reduce the impact of natural disasters,” said WFP spokeswoman Maherin Ahmed.
Aside from Bangladesh, the concept, which emerged in 2015, has been used in eight other countries to tackle climate-related shocks, according to the WFP.
The Red Cross has been a strong backer of the approach.
Women know best
Ahmed said research showed that forecast-based funding could lead to more effective use of aid in emergency situations.
A 2018 study in Nepal found it could save $22 million when responding to an emergency of an average size affecting about 175,000 people, she said.
Shah Kamal, secretary of Bangladesh’s disaster ministry, said the project would only really succeed if recipients used the money wisely.
It provides them with a much larger amount than previous cash transfer schemes deployed by the Bangladesh government, he noted.
“They need to invest it right,” said Kamal. “I believe the women here will be key. They are better at assessing their family’s needs.”
He advised participants against using the money to settle loans — which many poor Bangladeshis take out to survive tough times — saying that would not be “productive.”
Dipti Rani, 31, who lives in Kurigram with her husband and daughter, did use part of the money she got to pay off a debt.
But she also spent some on bamboo sticks to raise up her home in the hope of keeping her family safe from river floods.
They were marooned there for 11 days, before the water began to recede.
“I thankfully survived the floods a week ago thanks to the money. But the water has been rising again since yesterday. What am I going to do now?” she asked.


S.Korea official says US-N.Korea dialogue seen starting soon

Updated 56 min 54 sec ago

S.Korea official says US-N.Korea dialogue seen starting soon

  • South Korea will hold a meeting with Japan to discuss intelligence-sharing pact
  • The agreement will expire on August 24

SEOUL: The United States and North Korea are expected to reopen denuclearization talks soon and it would “go well,” a senior South Korean official said on Thursday, boosting hopes for progress in negotiations after a prolonged stalemate.
South Korea’s deputy national security adviser Kim Hyun-chong gave his upbeat assessment after meeting with US envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegun in Seoul.
“My impression was that North Korea and the United States would carry out dialogue soon, and it would go well,” Kim told reporters after the one-hour meeting, without elaborating.
Working-level talks between the United States and North Korea have yet to restart since they were stalled by the failed second summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi in February.
Trump and Kim met again in June at the inter-Korean border and agreed to reopen negotiations.
The South Korean official also said that South Korea’s presidential National Security Council will convene later on Thursday to review an intelligence-sharing pact with Japan, that Seoul had threatened to scrap amid a spiralling diplomatic and trade spat.
The General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) could expire on Saturday if either side decides not to roll it over.
According to Kim, the South Korean official, Biegun raised the issue, which has worried Washington as the accord is instrumental in three-way efforts to counter North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.
“I’ve told him we’ll carefully examine it and make a decision in a way that serves our national interest,” the South Korean deputy national security adviser said.