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UN releases Bangladesh flood aid in record time before flooding: spokesman
July 16,2020   By:Xinhua
UNITED NATIONS, July 16,2020 -- The United Nations released 5.2 million U.S. dollars in emergency funds so fast to fight flooding in Bangladesh -- the relief was being distributed even before the land was inundated, a UN spokesman said on Wednesday.
 
"In an innovative approach to dealing with severe flooding in Bangladesh, the United Nations is taking action before disaster hits," said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. "The funds were made available within four hours of a warning that floods could reach critical levels in the coming days."
 
Release of the relief money from the Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) was the fastest response in UN history, Dujarric told a virtual press briefing.
 
In an innovative approach to dealing with the effects of severe flooding in Bangladesh, the United Nations is using the latest in data and predictive analytics to forecast the next major monsoon floods, gauge likely impacts, and take action -- before possible disaster hits, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a press release.
 
"Doing something before crises hit can save more lives and costs less money, plus it's far more dignified for the people we're helping," said OCHA.
 
UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock said, "If we know a flood is about to hit, why wouldn't we give river communities the means to get themselves, their livestock and their tools out of harm's way before the deluge comes, instead of waiting until they've lost everything then try and help? It's a no-brainer."
 
"If disasters take us by surprise, it's because we weren't looking," said Lowcock, head of OCHA and an advocate of using data and predictive analytics.
 
Bangladesh is highly vulnerable to monsoon flooding.
 
In an average year, approximately one-quarter of the country is inundated, OCHA said. In some years, flooding is more intense and surpasses the ability of communities to cope, leading to the loss of human life and the destruction of infrastructure, livelihoods and homes, and creates deep humanitarian needs.
 
What began to trigger the release of CERF funds, according to OCHA, was a July 4 forecast of a high probability of severe flooding along the Jamuna River, with one-third of the area's total population likely to be affected.
 
This was followed by the July 11 forecast predicting the floods would reach critical levels in five days. At this point, workers began distributing the aid.
 
The funds went to three UN entities, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Food Programme and the UN Population Fund to enable them to prepare to distribute cash, livestock feed, storage drums, and hygiene, dignity and health kits, OCHA said.