IFRC launches emergency appeal to help thousands in Bangladesh struck by monsoon floods

Publicado: 17 agosto 2016 11:47 CET

By Sam Smith, IFRC

When floodwaters poured into Sree Jago Babu’s home in Jamalpur, northern Bangladesh, he sought refuge with his wife in a local school that had opened up as a temporary shelter.

“We get floods every year, but this year the water was much higher than previous years,” said Babu. “Two years ago the floodwaters came up to my knees. Then last year they came up to my waist. This year it was up to my chest.”

Babu, from the rural village of Uttor Halkarchar, kept a supply of grain three feet above ground level. But that was not enough to protect it from the floodwaters.

“We had nothing to eat except bread for three days,” continued Babu. “We don’t have much money, so we had to borrow to get food. Now we have to look for fish that have become trapped in the inland ponds.”

Bangladesh’s seasonal floods result from heavy monsoon rains. This year around 3.7 million people across 19 districts across the country have been affected and a quarter of a million homes lie damaged or destroyed. 

High river levels have also resulted in widespread river erosion, meaning communities have been forced to relocate. Government figures estimate that more than 17,000 houses have been completely washed away.

The northern districts of Jamalpur, Kurigram Shirajganj, Tangail and Gaibanda are of greatest concern and the scale of the floods has prompted the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to launch an emergency appeal to provide emergency assistance to more than 100,000 people.

Kabita Rani, from Uttor Halkarchar in Jamalpur is no stranger to the vagaries of changing weather patterns in Bangladesh.

“If there’s not enough water, we cannot fish. When there’s too much water, we suffer a lot. The floods have contaminated the soil, so I can’t grow any vegetables. My husband cannot go out and catch fish as his boat was damaged.” 

“Communities have become accustomed to dealing with floods, but this year’s monsoon season has been particularly bad”, said Mozharul Huq, secretary general of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society.

“The floodwaters have started to recede across northern districts as they move south towards the Bay of Bengal, but receding floodwaters do not mean the end of the problem – quite the opposite. People need help to rebuild their homes and livelihoods. They also need support to ensure they are better prepared for such recurring natural disasters.”

Climate change has led to increasingly frequent natural disasters in Bangladesh. The monsoon floods come soon after Cyclone Roanu struck the country in May, affecting around 1.3 million people.

“My big concern is that the frequency of these natural disasters in Bangladesh has led to donor fatigue,” said Azmat Ulla, IFRC head of delegation in Bangladesh. 

“We are committed to providing effective humanitarian aid at a local level, but we can only do so with the necessary international financial support.”

To date, Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers have distributed food to more than 27,000 people. The Red Crescent is using nine water treatment kits, which can each treat water at a rate of 1,000 liters/hour, to provide clean drinking water to 15,000 people across Bogra, Sirajganj, Jamalpur and Kurigram.