In Bangladesh, monsoon floods happen every year. And each time they bring hardship for many people. This July, heavy rainfall caused flash floods and river erosion across 19 districts. The calamity continued for two months and had a devastating effect on 3.7 million people. In varying ways they suffered from lack of shelter, food, clean water, sanitation, education and information. As part of the CDAC Network’s contribution to awareness around emergency preparedness, and how the views of those most affected should be used to help develop better response, journalist Onchita Shadman, visited the northern district of Jamalpur to hear what happened to people and what they would like to see done in the future. Jamalpur was one of the areas worst affected. It suffered the longest period of disruption, as roads and railway tracks were submerged in water. She writes;
Farmer *Astha Ali lives along the mighty Jamuna River in Kulkandi sub-district of Jamalpur. Kulkandi is a vulnerable area, where residents receive flood alert messages from the Water Development Board. “The Water Board sent messages on our mobile phones telling us that people should move to higher grounds, and roads need to be elevated as a protection measure. Beforeforehand, the community had built a mud dike, but it collapsed under the pressure of water. I think if we can raise it by another 3 to 4 feet, we will be safe from future flooding". (Note; There are mud roads in the villages. The water board asked the community to raise the level of the roads so those can act as protective barriers. This is done by digging up soil from an area and putting it on the mud roads to make them higher. Villagers were also asked to move to higher grounds to save their lives).
Ali and his neighbors save Tk 5 each month in a pot of fund introduced by the Red Crescent Society. “Red Crescent came here during floods. They added some of their money to our savings and bought flattened rice and jaggery (a confection produced from sugar cane and date palm tree) for us. It would have been better if we could receive more food. In the past, I got a cow from Red Crescent; some people were given tube well and some had their houses rebuilt. They did a lot. The aid package from the government was also adequate and timely. It included 20 kg rice and Tk 12,000 as cash. But, "often money is expected by some people from the community or political entities who are involved in the registration and distribution of goods. The TNO (chief executive of a sub-district) Sahib is honest. If he, or other government officials or the military comes and hand out relief items individually, only then will everyone receive aid.”
Ali’s favorite pastime is watching television while sipping tea in the village market. “I like the news on TV. It updates us about health issues, how to keep our surroundings clean, why we should keep our food covered and wash hands after using latrine. I watched on TV the system of cooking on an elevated platform. It is very useful when water level increases. I wish we had a TV in our neighborhood. We don’t have electricity, but it could be run on solar power. During floods, our village becomes an island. We are cut off from rest of the world. A TV could keep us informed.”
*Pseudonym used for confidentiality