In Bangladesh, monsoon floods happen every year. In July 2016 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. Journalist Onchita Shadman spoke to people affected by the cyclone for the CDAC Network as part of it's commitment to listen to people affected and make sure their views and experience are incorporated to make response more effective. She writes;
14-year-old Mohammad Deen Islam has been brought up on the bank of Jamuna River. He loves fishing and swimming and considers himself equally good at football, cricket, volleyball and badminton. But, in the riverine plains of Kulkandi in Jamalpur, sports are a luxury in the monsoon season. “The flood comes every year and inundate the school grounds where we play. This time, we missed school for 10 to 12 days. Our half-yearly exam was coming up. During exam, each day counts. I studied at home. If I didn’t understand something, I had to wait until school reopens. When the water started receding, we rolled up our trousers and cleaned the classrooms and the field. It took us a week. The ground floor was still submerged under water. The exam took place on the second floor. Four of us shared a bench which would usually accommodate two students.”
Deen had packed his books and school uniform into a sack which he put on the bed for safekeeping. “The water eventually reached up to my waist and the books got soaked. The school provides extra books if there are spare copies. Otherwise, I have to buy new books. During floods, we are allowed to attend classes without uniform for a few days. My school uniform is white and it got stains from dirty water. I had to get a new uniform made.”
Deen has a younger brother for whom floods can be particularly difficult. “Small children don’t know swimming very well and are scared of snakes and leeches. When flood water entered our house, my family lived on the road for about two weeks, along with many others. Before falling asleep, we would check our sheets for snakes. Several NGOs visited and enquired about our condition. I helped them with directions. Volunteers from Women’s College distributed breads and biscuits to those who had taken shelter in the bazaar. My parents received the food. I didn’t take it thinking my portion would be useful for someone else.”
Deen mentions that his social science textbook includes a chapter on environment and disaster. “It includes what needs to be done when floods arrive, and how water from tube wells can be tested and purified with tablets. My parents know these things too. They have attended a training organized by the Red Crescent.” Although, his community is well-aware about flood response, Deen says not everyone receives flood warnings on time. “When water suddenly flows in and catches us unaware, the damage is severe. My cousin learnt about the incoming flood from Facebook. The news on BTV (national TV station) show the effect of flood across the country. This gives us an idea about its possible consequence in our area. In my view, ‘miking’ (announcements made by people going around with megaphones) is the most useful way to alert people about a threat.”
Onchita visited the people living alongside the Jamuna river thanks to funding to CDAC Network through the UK Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programme. This works to develop effective response where it is needed most, and aims at a major improvement in the way countries cope with populations caught up in a disaster or conflict. This ground breaking programme, one of the largest investments of its kind, is managed collaboratively by the CDAC and Start Networks. Between them they leverage the expertise of more than 50 member organisations.