Development work interrupted
Meanwhile, the ongoing political turmoil is taking its toll on development work.
“Strikes do delay the implementation of activities we funded. For instance, cash-based transfers are not implemented during strikes. And usually INGOs [international NGOs] and UN partners are not able to use their vehicles on those days, which means their programmes come to a halt, and monitoring cannot be done,” said Olivier Brouant, head of office of the European Commission’s humanitarian arm (ECHO) in Dhaka.
ECHO is one the largest donors in Bangladesh, providing 30.65 million euros to address humanitarian needs in 2012 and 2013, and 3.65 million euros for disaster risk reduction projects in 2013 and 2014.
To cope with the strikes, Plan International in Bangladesh has changed its working pattern.
“We have shifted some of our event-based activities to the weekends, and to make up working days lost in strikes for the staff who still cannot come to the office on a hartal (local word for strike) day, they are now working on weekends or making up time by working late,” Elena Ahmed, deputy country director for Plan International in Bangladesh.
According to Gareth Price-Jones, country director for Oxfam, the situation is manageable. But he added: “We are worried for the future, though, and with other NGOs and the UN, we are reminding all actors of the protected status of humanitarian work under international law, which should enable us to keep working even if the situation worsens.”