Apr 15, 2020

Coronavirus: Food crisis in Chittagong Hill Tracts

Indigenous peoples from different corners of Bangladesh are suffering from severe starvation due to the coronavirus pandemic. Engaged in low-income occupations and working at family houses, as house guards or drivers, most have lost their jobs. Moreover, public and non-governmental development programmes have been limited and many villages are no longer receiving any relief.


Below is an article from Hill Voice

Hill Voice, 12 April 2020, Bangladesh:  In a statement dated on 12 April 2020, Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum, Jatiya Adivasi Parishad and Kapaeeng Foundation said that the ongoing outbreak of coronavirus has turned into a global pandemic today. Almost all countries of the world are struggling to cope with this virus. Bangladesh is not beyond attack. As the number of tests increases, the number of victims in Bangladesh is increasing. The number of victims in our country has now exceeded 620. Due to the corona pandemic and lockdown, thousands of families of indigenous peoples of hills (Chittagong Hill Tracts) and plain lands across the country, like the low-income people in the country, are suffering from a severe food crisis. Being the remote areas, no government and non-government private relief materials have been provided to them.

In particular, about 1200 Santal families in Gaibandha and 200 Santal, Pahariya and Oraon families in Rajshahi; around 30 thousand souls of 800 families of indigenous Hajang and Banai communities in Netrokona and Sherpur; 300 Koch-Burman family at Fulbaria in Mymensingh district; more than 200 Garo people of Kalighat Union of Srimangal Upazila under Moulvibazar district of Sylhet region; more than 50 Rakhine families of remote Baidyapara of Eidgarh union in Ramu upazila of Cox’s Bazar; around 5,000 families of Mro, Khumi, Chak, Tripura and Marma in the remote villages of Lama, Thanchi, Alikadam, Ruma, Naikhyongchari and Rowangchari upazilas of Bandarban district; about 800 Tripura families living in different hills of Sitakunda in Chittagong district; at least 7,000 families of Tripura, Marma and Chakma in the remote villages of Panchari, Matiranga, Guimara, Mahalachari and Ramgarh of Khagrachari district including Rangamti’s Sajek union are living in the severe starvation.

Hundreds of indigenous people from different corners of the country are engaged with different low-income occupations, including jobs in different factories in different cities of the country including Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet, Savar, Narayanganj, Rajshahi, Mymensingh. In Dhaka city alone, hundreds of indigenous people are working in beauty parlors, family houses, house guards, drivers etc. Most of whom have lost their jobs. These families are living in a miserable life now.

Hajang and Banai families in fear of corona and extreme food crisis

Around 30 thousand souls of 800 families of indigenous Hajang and Banai communities in their villages of Nalitabari, Dhobaura, Durgapur, Kalmakanda, Madyanagar and Tahirpur police stations have been hit by food shortages. Most of the Hajong and Banai people of that region work as day laborers.

Due to the lockdown, their work is now suspended which made stop their earnings. The Hajong and Banai family members are now taking one-time meal instead of three-time meal daily. Despite so, their little food reserves are running out.

Hajong and Banai families are now fearful of the disease on the one hand, and the extreme calamity of the food crisis.

Indigenous Garo people in food crisis in Srimangal:

Due to the epidemic coronavirus, the indigenous Garo people of ​​Garo Tila of Kalighat Union under Srimangal upazila under Moulvibazar district of Sylhet has been reported to be in acute food crisis.

It has been reported that more than two hundred poor people of 35 families in the Garo Tila area were forced to spend their days in starving in the wake of the undeclared lockdown to prevent coronavirus. But they have not yet received any kind of public and private support.

Accordingly, to prevent the outbreak of the virus, the government announced a public holiday from March 26 across the country. Public transportation is closed. All shops and markets are closed except emergency shops. As a result, especially those who are poor, low income people and working people are in danger. They have no employment, no adequate food reserves.

It is reported that only 19 out of 35 family of Garo Tilla are working as permanent workers in the local Sonachara tea garden of Finlay Tea Company. But the family does not live on the income of only a worker. On the other hand, there is no permanent job for the rest of the family members. In this situation, there is no scope for doing anything. As a result, the poor indigenous Garo of this Garo Tilla are now forced to spend a hard time in starving. Disaster can come to their life if they do not get any assistance from the government and non-government authorities. They must either die without eating or getting sick. Source: sylhettoday.com.

62 Rakhine families in Ramu passing days in starvation:

The Rakhine family of Baidyapara, a remote village of Eidgarh union of Ramu upazila of Cox’s Bazar, is starving for food shortages due to the coroner crisis. Most of the Rakhine families are hardcore poor, farmers and day laborers.

Recently, in the state of lockdown due to the corona pandemic, everyone became workless in the village. Even passing of a month in the lockdown, no family has received any relief from government or non-government organizations. That is why many of the Rakhine people in this remote village are passing miserable days in starving.

In such a situation, the simplest villager’s question to this reporter is, ‘When will the lockdown end, when can I work again, when will we get food?’

It is reported that the village of Baidyapara is located in a hill area about 40 km away from Ramu Upazila Sadar. Far from the upazila headquarters, even the communication system is not so good, the people of this village do not get a very good government opportunity. Along the way, these poor residents of Baidyapara are frequently neglected. Source: Azadi.

More than 7,000 families in 130 villages of Sajek

In the midst of starvation, Jumma villagers of about 7,000 families of 137 villages in Sajek union of Baghaichari upazila under Rangamati district, mostly from Tripura community, are suffering from starvation due to coronavirus.

There are more than four million indigenous people in the country. Most of them are poor and low-income people. The most vulnerable to the food crisis caused by the coronavirus is the marginalized indigenous of the hills (Chittagong Hill Tracts) and plains of the country.

It is known that no family out of more than 7 thousand families of 130 villages including Udalchari, Natun Jappoi, Shanti Para, New Thantang, Tarum Para, Kajoichhari, No. 9 Tripura Para, Bhuyachari, Mandirachhara, Ratanpur, Halim Para, Lankar Debachara and Bhuiyachara have received any relief. These villages are located in the remote areas of Sajek, where the only way to get in touch is by walking the hills.

The main occupation of the people of 130 villages including most of Sajek’s villages is Jum cultivation and agriculture. The people of the village made a living by selling the agricultural products in Machalong Bazar, Ujo Bazar, Baghaihat Bazar and Bhuyachari village. These villagers have fallen in trouble in selling agricultural goods due to the closure of the market following the corona pandemic. They are forced to spend lazy days at home.

Except villages alongside of roads and waterways, most villages in Sajek have been deprived of public and non-government development programme for ages because of inaccessibility. Despite the government and non-governmental relief given to 7-8 hundred families who have become unemployed under the circumstances caused by the coronavirus, no relief has yet been reached in 130 villages out of 174 villages.

Not only in the Sajek area, the food crisis of around 7 thousand villagers of Tripura, Marma and Chakma communities in the remote villages of Panchari, Matiranga, Guimara, Ramgarh and Mahalachari in Khagrachari district is ongoing. The villagers said no one had come to provide helps to them in these remote areas.

Indigenous people in food crisis in Lama, Thanchi, Alikadam, Ruma & Rowangchari

At least 30 families out of 50 in the remote Kapru Para of Lama Upazila under Bandarban district are living in a severe crisis as food is already finished in their homes.

The Mro villagers have kept the village voluntarily closed (lockdown) for the past two weeks with Khasur (bamboo gate) in their village entrance to protect themselves from the coronavirus. Since the traditional Para Bandha (village lock), the villagers did not go out, so the food crisis has intensified. So far, no assistance has been reached to them.

Not only Kapru Mro Pari, around 5 thousand families of indigenous villagers who went unemployed during the outbreak of coronavirus in many remote areas of Lama, Thanchi, Alikadam, Ruma, Naikhyongchari and Rowangchari upazilas of Bandarban district were not receiving food assistance.

There are more than three hundred families in Sekdu Mouza in Thanchi upazila, where most of the families are suffering from food crisis.

The villages in worst food crisis are Thong Nang Khumi Para, Sati Chandra Tripura Para, Janirang Para and Handurang Para. Many families of Mro, Khumi, Chak, Tripura and Marma communities in remote villagers are in dire food crisis, local Mouza chiefs said.

Jumma villagers of remote Tandu, Remakri, Bara Madak and Choto Madak in Thanchi upazila have complained that no public representative nor any government official along with help has visited their areas yet.

Villagers alleged that they are deprived of many government or non-government development programs due to inaccessibility of communication. Villagers in remote areas depend on Jum crops for food, but most families face a food crisis from April because they do not get enough food for the year.

Tripura families in Sitakund passing miserable time

About 800 Tripura families living in different hills of Sitakunda in Chittagong did not reach government and private relief till today. As a result, the workless Tripura families are living miserable lives due to the coronavirus crisis.

According to local sources, there are 800 families of Tripura people at Chhoto Darogahat of Baroiyrdhara union of Sitakunda, Mahadevpur of Sitakunda Municipality headquarters, Banshbariya, Sultana Mandir and Chhota Kumira of Kumira union, middle, south Sonichari and Madanahat of Sonichari union. Except for some of their family members, almost all are day laborers.

Since 26 March, Tripura people in their area have been workless. They have fallen in food crisis. They used to do Jum farming in the hills. Now they have no work. So far no one has come with relief. At least 50 families in the areas are living a very miserable life.

Helpless and marginal Tripuras of Chandpur in severe food crisis

The helpless and marginal Tripuras are living in 13 areas including 14 unions and municipalities under Chandpur Sadar upazila of Chandpur district. The situation in Tripura is very worst for those areas which have significant river erosion among the 13 regions. The areas are Baharia, Lakshmipur, Gobindia, Baliya, South Baliya, Haripur, North Baliya, Municipality, Ashikati, Hamankardi, Baburhat, Asrayan Prokalpa and Dasadi.

About 500 families of Tripuras live in these areas. Most of these families are poor day laborers living hand to mouth. Due to the lockdown, the Tripuras of Chandpur have been suffering from starvation for the past few days. But the nationwide general holiday program declared by the government to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus has blocked their way of earning a living.

Due to lack of work, the Tripuras of Chandpur have been in this difficult condition for some days “no work, no food”. In the meantime, indigenous rights activists said Tripura villagers needed some relief assistance on an emergency basis. Relief assistance was provided to the 100 Tripura families of Chandpur Upazila on 3 April. However, more than four hundred poor Tripura families are still waiting for relief.

More than 3000 indigenous families facing severe food crisis

1200 Santal families from Gaibanda district and 2000 families of Santal, Paharia and Oraon from Rajshahi district are facing humanitarian crisis during the lockdown against infestation of Covid-19. These villages are Bagan Para, Possim Tali Para, Sheikh Para, Molla Para, Aligarh, Miapur, Kalimnagar, Paba Natun Para, Boroban Gram Shekh Para, Rowada Para Kusar Centre, Koikuri, Haldibona, Santoshpur, Gopalpur, Andarkotha Para under Rajshahi Metropolitan area. Around 2000 indigenous people are living in these areas. Most of the villagers are day laborers living hand to mouth; a few are rickshaw puller and some are peasant/agricultural laborer. During the lockdown, they have to stay at home, and have no work and income to lead their daily lives. The stock they had has already ended up or is going to be finished. But, they are still out of the government relief goods.

On the other hand, the families from three villages- Kuamara, Madarpur and Joypurpara under Gobindaganj in Gaibandha district are also dealing their daily lives with no income and work. It is known that most of the people from these villages are staying their home due to the panic of Covid-19. It is alleged that they are getting nothing from the administration. The Santals also alleged that they have been kept aside from such kind of government assistance after the clash on Sahebganj-Bagda-Farm Issue.

300 Koch-Burman family in extreme food crisis in Fulbaria

1200 people in the 300 Koch-Burman families are spending days without work and passing miserable condition at Fulbaria in Mymensigh district due to crisis caused by the coronavirus. These indigenous people are suffering from extreme food crisis. Government assistance is far from the point, no person or organization has ever come forward with their help.

The same situation has been reported in Babul Bazar of Rangamati Union, Bidyananda village of Kaladah Union, Dulma village of Enayetpur union, Bakta and Koch-Burman Para of Putijana union under Fulbaria upazila.