Many village houses are becoming uninhabitable due to frequent flooding caused by storms and cyclones.

Sometimes whole villages are submerged by the waters, remaining flooded for many months. Chakla in Bangladesh’s Satkhira district has not yet re-emerged from the flooding caused by Cyclone Amphan which decimated the south of the country in late May 2020.

Many villagers were not only displaced, but their livelihoods destroyed.

Farmers like Iqbal, have decided that enough is enough. He has started to abandon his farm and move his family to the city. The move is necessary to allow him to survive but ends decades of family history as village farmers. The frequent natural disasters have disrupted his way of life and he can no longer live in his family home or farm his land.

November 2020 marked 50 years since the devastating Cyclone Bhola killed at least 300,000 people in Bangladesh. Although work by the Government on flood defences and early warning systems has reduced the death tolls, the frequency of natural disasters makes it increasingly difficult for villages to recover. It is estimated that 300,000 people have been displaced in the coastal areas of Satkhira and Khulna. Whole villages were submerged when the embankments of the local rivers burst, having been worn away by repeated storms. In Khulna’s Pratapnagar area, all 18 villages remain under water.

The displaced population have little place to go and, since the recent cyclone, most have moved to government land, camped out by the riverside or near roads or in cyclone shelters.

The cyclone comes as the country continues to battle the Covid-19 pandemic which has cost migrant workers their jobs in the cities or abroad.

Although two rice planting seasons and harvests have had to be forfeit, it is not just traditional farming which has been affected. Villages often constructed ponds to provide sustainable access to fish or to farm shrimps but these have also been washed away, along with their fish and shrimp stocks. Other industries reliant on farming have been affected with even drivers transporting crops to market having to sell their vehicles. As the waters remain high, tens of thousands are moving to the cities and to a change of life. The combination of the pandemic and the cyclone have created a complex crisis. The country needs to build sustainable solutions and not just quick fix flood prevention. There needs to be full ecosystem management. Although Bangladesh has improved its flood warning systems, there is little Government assistance provided to displaced victims to help them to recover and rebuild their lives.

Similarly, promised improvements to flood defences often fail to materialise. Many villages that lay in Cyclone Amphan’s path suffered ini 2007 and 2009 when cyclones Sidr and Aila hit yet the damaged embankments went unrepaired with applications for funding never being approved.

The frequent flooding means that, long-term, Bangladesh’s rural populations are moving into already crowded cities, expanding their slums.

With rising sea levels caused by climate change, this exodus will continue unless proper investment is made to provide a long term solution to a difficult problem. The solution will require assistance from both the Bangladesh Government but also from the international community. Without this focus, whole areas of Bangladesh will become uninhabitable and cities, with their own problems, will continue to expand.

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This month's blog is reproduced from KindLink Global's interview with The Orphan Trust's founder, Mina.

What Inspired Mina To Create The Orphan Trust?

Mina had been donating to charities for years. At some point, even that was not enough. She knew of the different causes people are fighting for and as a mother had decided that fighting for the good of children was her calling. She wanted to get involved herself and that is why she founded the Orphan Trust. Her inspiration was to make a direct tangible change to the lives of children, starting in Bangladesh. She knew she wanted to support orphans and prevent them from being abandoned in the first place.

Mina shares that the ultimate goal is to stop children from being on the streets. But she also acknowledges the near-impossible task to get all children off the street. Most children are on the street to escape violence from parents or guardians at their homes. It is important to note that kids in care homes also have a very difficult time.

What Are The Conditions For Orphans In Bangladesh?

The local community is getting together to support orphanages. In Bangladesh, an orphan is a child without a father. Mina shares a story about a boy’s orphanage in Bhola, where storms and rain are heavy and take their toll on the surroundings. Their fathers are usually fishermen, who have drowned at sea. Their mothers are unable to have an income and have no ability to provide them with care. The kids don’t have anything, and their only choice is to go live in the orphanage.

Before the charity had started working with the orphanage, the children were sleeping on battered and broken beds, mattresses were covered in stains and the overall conditions were awful. Power outages were common due to the weather as well. Many nights had been spent sitting in the dark or surrounded by candles, not being able to do much. The living conditions had been incredibly poor. A lot of fundraising and work had to be done to buy new furniture and bedding for the children. The children were also attending the local public school.

However, in the orphanage itself, there were very few staff members and tutors to help provide care and support for the orphans. This required for the charity to chip in. Ever since then the charity has been paying the wages of the new staff members hired to take care of the children. Moreover, a lot of work has been done to make the orphanage self-sufficient and as beneficial as possible to the children. For example, a pond where fish can grow and be farmed was built. After the fish is caught, the remaining fish that hasn’t been eaten is sold on the local market. These funds are then given to the children so that they are more independent.

How The Entire Community Became Reliant On The Orphan Trust

With recent events, the charity has started making campaigns to help provide food for families living on the streets. During the lockdown in Bangladesh, many of the people who do not have an address do not have access to many of the government and NGO programs to help people weather the storm. Due to this, the charity has focused on providing the people not covered by these programs. Warms meals are distributed a few times per week to people in need so that the families can survive the crisis.

Therefore, charities such as the Orphan Trust are increasingly more reliant on digital solutions. The growing of problems and inability to raise funds the normal way makes for a very difficult period for charities who do not make use of online platforms. Having knowledge on digital solutions is key in spreading the message of the charity, raising funds and organizing events. With so many fires that need to be tackled more innovative ways of facing them are required. And this could be the solution to better support orphans in the future.

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Monsoon season has just finished in Bangladesh and has left many people homeless. It was the most prolonged monsoon flooding in decades. Despite the UN lauding its new initiatives for early intervention aimed at preparing communities for crises, by mid-July 550 people had been killed and 9.6 million affected by the disaster. Bangladesh’s ministry of disaster management and relief has estimated that a third of the country was already underwater by mid-July, with more rain expected up to mid-October.

Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, executive director of the Bangladeshi NGO Coast, said the country was far more prepared for flooding than in the past, but that populations in some flooded areas ended up in dire need because of a combination of existing localised and national crises (Covid-19). He said people’s incomes had already been hit by the government’s closure of 25 state-owned mills, mostly in the northern areas that have been flooded, and by the Covid-19 pandemic. Almost a third of the population has dropped under the poverty line. This has a huge impact on food security and purchasing power.

The UN said it had been trying to pre-empt damage to livelihoods by predicting where support needed to be sent ahead of time, using data and forecasting analytics. That had allowed the release of relief worth £4m from its reserve fund for humanitarian emergencies to counter severe flooding over the past few weeks in the form of cash, hygiene and health kits, and equipment to protect farmer’s materials from water damage.

Over 2 million children have been affected by these floods and are now either living on the streets or in orphanages as their parents can’t afford to take care of them anymore. This means that orphanages and children’s refuges are struggling to support this huge number of children and need more funds to be able to function. This means we need your help more than ever, so please donate now. Even a small donation goes a long way.

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