Bangladesh Red Crescent Society staff and volunteers are supplying water to families whose meagre resources have been exhausted by repeated disasters.
About 2,000 families camping on embankments above flooded land in the coastal district of Cox’s Bazar are receiving safe drinking water purified by Red Crescent staff and volunteers, according to International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
These families have survived flashfloods and landslides in June and early July followed by severe weather accompanying Tropical Cyclone Komen in late July.
The situation prompted the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to launch an emergency appeal for 857,000 Swiss francs (USD 911,000) to provide relief and recovery support to 32,500 people in the coastal areas of Bangladesh.
“People staying here are desperate for water. They watched us set up the water purification unit, pump water from the pond and turn it into safe drinking water. They really appreciated it,” says Ziaul Haque Himel, project monitoring officer at the IFRC.
Water was given to the 2,000 families identified by a Red Crescent assessment as most urgently in need of help, explains David Easson, programme coordinator at the IFRC, which supported the Red Crescent.
“These people have survived hard times and received little assistance until now. Their coping mechanisms are stretched thin. Some will survive by going into debt, which will be difficult to repay later,” says David Easson.
“We also know that this is an impoverished part of Bangladesh at the best of times, and that the people here live subsistence, hand-to- mouth existence, with erratic food intake.”
Apart from quenching people’s thirst, supplies of safe water mean people don’t need to drink flood water. With no toilet facilities, people are defecating in the open which increases the risk of water sources becoming contaminated.
The Red Crescent team is also preparing to move 30 portable latrines close to the displaced families, where cash and tarpaulins for emergency shelter will also be distributed.
“Conditions for these families are miserable and there will be more rain to come until the monsoon ends in mid-September. We want to act as soon as possible as many of the people have suffered the effects of the earlier disasters at the end of June and early July,’ says David Easson.
A new World Bank study says climate change in Bangladesh is, “an additional stressor that is expected to increase the burden of diseases, resulting in increased morbidity and mortality”.
It confirms that disease in Bangladesh – already facing “enormous challenges” from droughts, inland and coastal flooding, and other extreme-weather events – is “strongly associated with sharp changes in temperature and precipitation between seasons”.
“Overall, climate change imposes a considerable additional burden on Bangladeshi society, [falling]disproportionately on the vulnerable poorer groups of population, having lower adaptive capacity,” said Johannes Zutt, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh. Read more.
The Bangladeshi authorities estimate that Cyclone Komen affected more than 1.5 million people in Chittagong, Bandarban, Feni, Noakhali and Cox’s Bazar, and damaged more than 100,000 houses.