Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Dubai-based woman who established the Dhaka Project in Bangladesh fears rising food prices and riots could lead to looting and bloodshed at the charity. Earlier this week about 20,000 workers rioted over high food prices and low wages close to the troubled capital, amid spreading global unrest over soaring grocery costs.

And Emirates cabin crew Maria Conceicao, who launched the Dhaka Project in 2005, says the organisation, which supports families and their children, is in crisis. “It is total chaos. Parents cannot afford their rent and have been evicted - they are living on the streets,” she said. "They are starving because the little money they have, they spend on feeding their children. “We don’t know what to do. If we buy food in advance to avoid the shortage of rice we are going to be targeted by thieves.
“There’s no point having security guards because they will be mugged. These are not violent people, but when you are hungry you have no other choice. It’s a matter of life or death for them. We are having more and more people coming to us asking for money and food.”
Maria says the cost of rice recently went from 18 taka (dhs0.9) to 45 taka (dhs2.4) per kilo, with a further increase to 65 taka (dhs3.4) likely over the coming weeks. “Consider this when the daily income of a parent is about 100 taka (dhs5.3),” she said. “I fear children and parents will die if these prices keep going up and we will have the same situation as the 1974 famine.”
It is estimated that more than one million people died in that famine. The latest violence came to a head on Sunday when police fired tear gas and used batons to break up protests. At least 50 people were injured - most of them police officers. About 20,000 textile workers from more than a dozen factories went on the rampage in Fatullah, 20 kilometres south of Dhaka, demanding more pay amid soaring rice prices.
The cost of rice in impoverished Bangladesh has doubled in the past year due to a massive production shortfall after devastating floods and a cyclone.
The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates worldwide food prices have soared 45 per cent over the past year as surging oil prices make growing and transporting food more expensive and economic growth in emerging giants China and India leads to rising demand for food.

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