Sympathies and help are pouring in for flood victims in Sylhet from all over the county. Many public figures and organisations are coming in with large amounts of relief packages.
Yet for Sharafat Ali of Dokkhin Bordah village, finding food has never been so challenging. Several days after the flash flood drowned his home, the water is receding a bit. But he is racing from here to there with his son, looking for a relief package.
"I couldn't even feed my son in the last few days," Sharafat said. "I have come to the highway with the hope of getting something. But they are loading the relief here on a boat to send somewhere else," said a desperate Sharafat Ali.
Some volunteers beside him were loading the relief packages on the trawler.
"We are a group of friends from Dhaka and Sylhet distributing aid in the flood areas. Since most people are assisting people nearby roads, we are sending these to a far off village where no aid has reached yet," one of the volunteers said.
During our visit to half a dozen flood stricken villages in Companiganj, we found many houses – where people are stranded but still didn't desert their homes – which didn't receive any kind of assistance.
Nekjan Begum, from Telukhal village, said she has mostly been surviving on an empty belly ever since the flood washed away her house.
"I am a helpless woman. No one helped me. I cannot endure this hunger anymore," Nekjan said.
Asirun Nesa, Rofika Begum, Shahab Uddin and dozens others of the neighbouring villages we spoke to said they have been struggling to manage food for their families.
"I returned from the shelter centre yesterday. When we had been at the centre there was food, but back home, I have not received any aid from anyone," said Shahur Banu of Shilervanga village, standing on knee deep water in front of her house.
Where is the relief going?
The government has allocated over Tk3.5 crores for Sylhet and Sunamganj districts to distribute as humanitarian aid, 1,720 metric tonnes of rice, and 58,000 packets of dried and other food items.
Besides, celebrities, public figures and religious leaders from across the country have been pouring in with assistance. Where are these relief materials going?
Debashish Paul Debu, a local journalist, sees two reasons why some people are still left behind in getting relief – mismanagement and lack of coordination.
"Many people are distributing relief but there is no such list of who is distributing where; or which area is more in need of relief. No one, including the local administration, military, or volunteers has a clear picture. As a result, in some areas too much assistance is going while others are left completely behind," Debu said.
Noman Bin Arman, a volunteer, and his team are working as a medium or the middleman between different organisations who are coming from other districts with assistance and the people in need of relief.
"Communication is the most important part here. Although a lot of people are coming with food and other relief contents, they cannot reach the distressed flood-affected people due to the bad condition of the communication system," Noman said.
"Again there is a lack of coordination and discipline here. If we could develop a system where 5-6 boats from every union will visit the relief distribution station and carry the necessary amount for the villages, that could help," Noman said.
Nawaz Marjan, another journalist based in Sylhet and a volunteer in Noman's team, said people from other districts coming with money, food and other assistance don't know the location well.
"If a monitoring cell could have been deployed where they could track relief-carrying trucks, then we could have proper statistics and the relief could have been distributed properly. But now some are receiving too much while some others are receiving none," Marjan said.
'The aid coming so far is not enough'
Mustafizur Rahman, an official of HHRD, an NGO, was preparing relief packages on the Sylhet-Companiganj highway. His team has been in the flood-stricken villages for the last few days.
"The aid that is coming is very little in comparison to the needs of the people. Whenever we take aid to the villages where aid has hardly reached yet, it becomes tough to return because it is always the case that many people remain empty-handed. So every aid distribution ends up being chaotic. And why wouldn't it? People are hungry," Mustafiz said.
"To address a situation like this, a massive scale of relief distribution is required. The citizen level relief is not a match for the havoc that this flood has created," he added.
Volunteer Noman said that the assistance from the common people was overwhelming but the packages declared by the government were not enough.
"The government has disappointed us. The amount of assistance announced by the government was so little in comparison to the need that it indeed shocked us more than the flood itself," Noman added.
Contacted, Sylhet District's Deputy Commissioner Mozibor Rahman said, "I went to many places, and wherever I went people said they are getting enough relief. I am very happy to hear that. There is adequate food in the shelter centres. We are going everywhere. I have formed committees everywhere and am taking reports regularly. So far I haven't found any negative report," the DC said.
"People are getting food in shelter centres. Now we have taken steps to deliver aid to villages in people's homes," he added.