Need for better flood rehabilitation
THE the waters have not receded. The ruins and remains visibly pile up like rubbish. Many victims, especially those living in remote villages, are disheartened that no government officials are available to help them claim the meager funds pledged.
Many were misdirected to various departments in Putrajaya because their district officers and penghulus washed their hands, blaming physical limitations beyond their jurisdiction.
All they want is a single government agent they could contact within their zip code.
A frustrated Kampung Jawa victim summed it up: “If it was an election campaign, there would have been loads of representatives reaching out to every voter on every street corner. The candidates will personally lead the elderly and disabled to the voting system. Why can’t they reach us now? “
Flood victims are still reeling from one of the “worst floods in 100 years”.
They had watched their entire lives float out of their doors and settle like spongy, rotten, unusable garbage beyond description. They lost everything.
So far, there has been no practical or specific account from the government on how the victims are going to be resettled.
To this day, thousands of people are still staying in temporary relief centers and even adapting to the way of life.
Some have made their own makeshift tents and have complacently stayed there for weeks.
The people had so much hope with the daily announcements of millions of ringgits to be paid to the victims.
Since December 17, around 70,000 people have been displaced while at least 48 drowned after unusually high rains that caused severe flooding in eight states.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob had pledged RM 1.4 billion in cash assistance and other relief measures to at least 30,000 affected households.
These include home and vehicle repairs, death benefits, relief from utility bills, and damaged infrastructure.
Under the Bantuan Wang Ihsan of the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma), 1,000 RM will be given to each head of household.
The prime minister also said he would ensure that the Department of Social Welfare facilitates and funnels additional resources to victims.
Although Nadma is slowly reaching out to groups of victims in halls and alms relief centers, it is the volunteers who have been cleaning the drains, emptying the trash and helping resettle the victims in recent weeks. The victims could not reach any social service worker for help.
Initially, as the murderous waters continued to rise and victims cried out for help, the federal and Selangor governments disagreed over conflicting responsibilities.
Ignoring these differences, it was highly commendable that the Armed Forces mobilized to help evacuate flood victims to relief centers, instead of waiting for any direction from Nadma.
To date, army officers have been seen transporting children to school and distributing groceries to families.
Johor and Pahang’s services were reported to be more sympathetic and systematic, and had handled the crisis better.
What is disturbing is that the scourge of flood waters is not new to the country.
Given the regularity of the floods, one could imagine that the government would have the experience and wisdom of the past to put in place a better management system.
Every year we hear disturbing stories of flood-related disasters. Why is there no integrated flood risk management system for emergency response?
This time around, the mark of inefficiency was symbolically reflected by two pumps that did not work during the Taman Sri Muda floods.
We were surprised that the engineers in the Irrigation and Drainage Department did not know that there was a malfunction.
This dysfunction had unblocked a whole series of fears and anxieties in the public.
We have no idea what is faulty and has been left unattended.
At present, each level of government and the components of each level are under scrutiny.
Without a doubt, the victims should be the most vital concern at this time.
Officials must speak out against this disaster and deal with the resettlement of flood victims as soon as possible. People are encouraged by the acts of initiative and heroism of their neighbors and volunteers.
An inspiring story is that of an Indonesian who scaled a row of rooftops where the victims were stranded and passed only a single stove and basic utensils for people to cook.
It was just a stove, but it was a quick and innovative response to starving people.
This innovative little gesture made all the difference for a few people. It was just a person and a stove.
The 1.6 million civil servants have all the resources, training and expertise to redeem the population from its current suffering.
Surely, could they facilitate better flood risk governance strategies?
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