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Development in BangladeshMore than 3.3 million Bangladeshis live in extreme poverty. Poverty is an ongoing issue for the country, but Bangladesh has worked on improving education and health and reducing poverty. In addition, the U.S. has contributed billions of dollars to Bangladesh to support it in its development. U.S. assistance to Bangladesh involves helping “grow more food, build more roads, train more skilled teachers, health care providers and soldiers,” according to the U.S. State Department. Furthermore, the U.S. holds the role as the largest source of foreign direct investment in Bangladesh.

Bangabandhu Satellite

In May 2018, Bangladesh launched its own satellite, Bangabandhu-1 (BD-1) into space. Estimates from the World Bank show that Bangladesh must spend billions until 2020 to bring its “power grids, roads and water supplies up to the standard needed to serve its growing population.” BD-1’s launch is a demonstration of infrastructure development and connectivity for the people of Bangladesh.

The Environment

Environmental challenges facing Bangladesh are largely due to pollution and environmental degradation. In addressing poverty, it is imperative to bear in mind that pollution affects poor communities severely. The government of Bangladesh has “embraced better planning by making environmental sustainability a cornerstone of its Seventh Five-year Plan through 2020.”

The Seventh Five-year Plan includes strategies to address the environmental and economic challenges facing Bangladesh today. In an effort to support its sustainable development agenda, the Government of Bangladesh has many institutions in place, such as The Department of Environment (DoE), Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR), Department of Fisheries (DoF) and Forest Department (FD). Bangladesh has The World Bank’s support in its development to ensure it is resilient to climate change.

Present and Future Development

The economic future of Bangladesh is hopeful, especially with the launch of BD-1. Economic and infrastructure development of Bangladesh must include addressing Bangladesh’s geographical location, thus its climate vulnerability. It is vital for Bangladesh to have plans set in motion to conserve its natural resources and to use its resources in a sustainable way.

A report by the World Bank indicates that development in Bangladesh is on a fast trajectory. The Brookings Institute suggests the biggest reason why there are fast-paced results and booming productivity in Bangladesh’s development is because of the empowerment of women. With the support of NGOs, Bangladesh’s government has “made significant strides toward educating girls and giving women a greater voice, both in the household and the public sphere” resulting positively in the improvement of children’s health and education.

Progress is happening in Bangladesh. If the current trajectory continues, then the rapid development in Bangladesh could result in Bangladesh being an Asian success story. As of March 2018, the world recognizes Bangladesh as a developing country. The announcement will become official in 2024, once the U.N. Economic and Social Council completes its assessment.

– Karina Bhakta
Photo: Unsplash

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Bangladesh
Bangladesh, a small South Asian country located to the right of India, is known for its lush greenery and extensive waterways. Home to one of the longest continuous beach on the planet and the world’s only mangrove forest, the country is characterized by its natural beauty. However, with more than 1,100 people living in each square kilometer, the country faces unique challenges. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Bangladesh:

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Bangladesh

  1. Nearly a quarter of Bangladeshi people are living below the national poverty line, according to 2015 World Bank data. That roughly works out to almost 41 million people. In addition, according to the Food Security Portal, “Bangladesh’s high poverty and undernutrition rates are exacerbated by frequent natural disasters and high population density.”
  2. The capital city of Dhaka is home to almost 9 million people. More than 2 million of these individuals either live in slums or are without any proper shelter.
  3. A dramatic influx of refugees from Myanmar means that people have no choice but to live in dangerous and over-crowded situations. According to the World Food Programme, “slopes in the camps are unstable and are at risk of collapsing during monsoon rains.” UNICEF estimates that 693,000 Rohingya (over half of whom are children) have been driven into Bangladesh since April 2018.
  4. Health care conditions and services are lacking. According to the World Health Organization, the number of hospital beds per 1,699 people is just four. Additionally, only 3 percent of Bangladesh’s entire GDP expenditure is allocated to health care.
  5. Though access to drinking water access is widespread, half of it fails to meet safety standards. In addition, the only city in the country that has a sewer system is Dhaka, and it only serves 18 percent of the city. According to the World Bank, in urban areas of Bangladesh, only about a third of the population has access to piped water.
  6. Roads suffer from extreme and frequent traffic jams due to the country’s incredibly high population density. According to Internations, “this makes driving in the cities very difficult and unpleasant due to issues with air pollution, dangerous driving and common road rage incidents.”
  7. Bangladesh has reduced its total fertility rate from 5 (children per woman) in 1966 to just 2.44 in 2016. A regional frontrunner, Bangladesh is on track to reach a total fertility rate of 2.1, the amount where, without migration, a country’s population is neither increasing or decreasing.
  8. The country is making strides in terms of development. The economy is growing which has led to improvements in primary education, gender equality, as well as improved rates of child and maternal mortality.
  9. Rates of open defecation have improved significantly. In 2015, just 1 percent of the population engaged in open defecation compared to 34 percent in 1990. Though the rate of growth is slow at only 1.1 percent annually, the current rate of improved sanitation is at 61 percent.
  10. Poverty and extreme poverty are declining, and currently stand at 31.5 and 17.6 percent respectively. Rates of poverty have almost halved since 1990, with 44.2 million people considered impoverished in 1991 and 24.1 million in 2015.

While continuing to deal with unique circumstances due to its high population density and geography, Bangladesh is making strides towards improving living conditions for its people. These top 10 facts about living conditions in Bangladesh only capture part of a diverse and developing country and indicate that, for the country’s people, the future is bright.

– Chelsey Crowne
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Poverty in Bangladesh
The small South Asian nation of Bangladesh has undergone economic development and extremely rapid population growth. Despite economic growth in the country, Bangladesh struggles with overwhelming poverty. In order to gain a better understanding of poverty and how it’s changing in the country, below are the top 10 facts about poverty in Bangladesh.

List of Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Bangladesh

  1. Bangladesh’s economy has grown rapidly since developing the industry and service sectors of the economy. This led to increased job opportunities and standard of living. In 1980, Bangladesh had a GDP of $18.14 billion. As of 2016, the country’s economy has risen to a staggering estimated $261.4 billion, ranking as the 43rd highest in the world.
  2. Although Bangladesh’s GDP has always been relatively high due to agriculture, GDP growth in the country has increased exponentially in recent years. This GDP development was catalyzed in the early 1990s, with approximately 5.76 percent average GDP growth. As of 2017, Bangladesh has continued to maintain its growth at 7.3 percent.
  3. Industry and services form a large part of Bangladesh’s economy, with specialized jobs and manufacturing continuing to increase. The service industry accounts for a majority of the GDP in Bangladesh at an estimated 56.5 percent, while industry and agriculture contributions compose 29.2 percent and 14.2 percent of the GDP respectively. Although the service industry contributes the most to Bangladesh’s economy, 63.2 percent of the country’s 163 million people work in industry and agriculture.
  4. The unemployment rate in Bangladesh is low, with an estimated 4 percent unemployment rate. While economic opportunity has been improved for many Bangladeshis, this number is somewhat inaccurate due to underemployment rates. An estimated 40 percent of laborers are underemployed and work only a few hours a week with very low wages.
  5. Poverty rates in Bangladesh have also steadily dropped as the country’s economy improves. In 2010, 31.5 percent of the population was deemed to live below the line of poverty, which is defined as living on $1.90 a day. This number dropped to 24.3 percent by 2016.
  6. In addition to decreasing poverty rates in Bangladesh, the number of those in extreme poverty, living on just $1.90 purchasing power parity a day has also dropped significantly. The rate of employed workers living in extreme poverty was at 73.5 percent in 2010 and has dropped drastically to 14.8 percent in 2016. Poverty and hunger, however, remain serious issues in Bangladesh. According to 2014-2016 estimates from Asian Development Bank, an estimated 15.1 percent of the population suffers from undernourishment.
  7. Life expectancy in Bangladesh has risen drastically, catalyzed by rapid infrastructural and economic expansion. In 1960, the average lifetime of Bangladeshis was approximately 46 years and has more than increased to 72.5 years by 2016.
  8. School enrollment in Bangladesh has increased as development began to increase. In 1980, only 20.5 percent of primary school students completed their full studies, while this number has increased to 66.2 percent by 2016. This increase in academic persistence is likely attributed to more opportunity for skilled laborers and decreased levels in poverty.
  9. Despite increased primary school enrollment in Bangladesh, the adult literacy rate in the country is relatively low at 72.76 percent. In young adults aged 15-24, however, the literacy rate is much higher at 92.24 percent, and the female literacy rates are relatively higher at 93.54 percent than males at 90.91 percent.
  10. In the capital city of Dhaka, issues of population density have arisen, as the city’s population is over 18 million people (in the Greater Dhaka area), nearly an eleventh of the country’s population. This population density is one of the highest in the world.

These top 10 facts about poverty in Bangladesh showcase an improved economy that offers more opportunities for its many citizens. A drastic increase in the service and skilled industries along with manufacturing and agricultural growth, has allowed the country to improve its standard of living.

Although the economy has rapidly developed, poverty for many in Bangladesh still persists. With more development and emphasis on education and diversified economy, poverty will continue to decrease in Bangladesh.

– Matthew Cline
Photo: Flickr

poverty and overcrowding
The world is experiencing rapid population growth and urbanization. Advances in medicine have allowed for increased life expectancy as well as decreased infant mortality, while birth rates have largely remained unchanged. This combination of circumstances has lead to great growth; between 1999 and 2011, the population increased by nearly one billion people.

The population increase has led to rapid urbanization. People migrate to cities with the promise of economic or educational opportunity, technological advancement and access to health care. It is estimated that by 2050, 66 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas.

This urbanization of cities that are neither prepared nor equipped to deal with overcrowding places strain on both natural and manmade resources alike. The following is a list of five cities suffering from both poverty and overcrowding.

Five Major Cities Dealing With Poverty and Overcrowding

  1. Mumbai, India: With a population density of 171.9 people per square mile, India is notorious for overcrowding. Mumbai is no exception, with a population near 23 million and a population density of almost 70,000 people per square mile.Mumbai serves as India’s commercial hub and is home to the Bollywood industry, making it prone to migration. Yet, those with hopes of Bollywood often end up in prostitution or organized crime. The population has doubled in 25 years, leading to many slum neighborhoods.In fact, half of the population of Mumbai lives in overcrowded, unsanitary slums that comprise only eight percent of the city’s geographic area. Although great wealth exists throughout Mumbai, poverty and overcrowding continue to increase.
  1. Dhaka, Bangladesh: Being named the most densely populated city in the world in 2015, Dhaka suffers from overcrowding and poverty alike. It has also been named to lists of least livable cities and fastest growing cities.Its population is over 18 million, with a density of 114,300 people per square mile. Roughly one-third of Dhaka’s residents live in poverty, with two million inhabiting slums or without any form of shelter.
  1. Lagos, Nigeria: Lagos is Africa’s fastest growing city. In 2017, the population was 21 million; the U.N. predicts that this number will rise to over 24 million by 2030.Situated between the Atlantic Ocean and a lagoon, Lagos is Nigeria’s commercial capital. Yet, 300,000 people live in slum neighborhoods and make a living by fishing out of hand-built canoes.  One-fifth of the city’s residents live in poverty.The slum houses are fashioned from scrap-metal and elevated on stilts to protect against flooding. There is little access to clean water, electricity or quality education. The majority of slums are built along the coast, causing friction with the wealthy as well as the government, which has evicted many communities on faulty logic in order to seize the land.
  1. Manila, Philippines: Manila has a population of 1.7 million and a land area of less than 10 square miles, leading to a high population density of over 170,000 people per square mile. Manila serves as the Philippines capital and home of its banking and commerce industries.In Manila, 600,000 people live in slum districts, which are ridden with disease and malnutrition. Many kids do not attend school, as parents are often forced to choose between feeding the family or sending the kids to school.
  1. Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia: Ulaanbaatar boasts the highest population density on this list, with over 760,000 people per square mile. The influx in population resulted in unplanned neighborhoods known as “ger” areas, which house 60 percent of Ulaanbaatar’s population but are vulnerable to natural disasters and lack water and sanitation sources as well as electricity.A number of expensive apartment buildings mark the city’s skyline, yet many of these buildings remain empty due to the high cost of living. The government intervention has tended to benefit the upper-income subgroups, rather than those living in poverty.

Poverty and overcrowding are endlessly entwined. Rather than placing a halt on migration and urbanization as many cities have attempted, lack of affordable housing, quality water and sanitation facilities, education opportunity and food shortages ought to be addressed. Cities must respond to the growing demands that come with overcrowding in order to help alleviate poverty and decrease hardship.

– Jessie Serody
Photo: Flickr

Facts About BRAC
The Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) is a non-governmental organization founded in Bangladesh in 1972. It is surprisingly obscure despite its impacts. These are 10 facts about BRAC that are necessary to understand more about the organization.

10 Facts About BRAC

  1. BRAC is the largest non-governmental organization (NGO) in the world. The Economist described it as “the largest, fastest-growing non-governmental organization in the world–and one of the most businesslike.”
  2. BRAC’s mission is to alleviate poverty and encourage economic participation by empowering people through social and economic programs.
  3. Founder Fazle Hasan Abed created BRAC after becoming disillusioned with poverty in Bangladesh. Now, BRAC has a positive impact in the poorest Asian and African countries in the world, reaching an estimated 138 million people.
  4. BRAC is funded by the Omidyar Network, which invests in impactful NGOs to bring about social change. This allows BRAC’s programs to be very effective and far-reaching.
  5. In 2016, BRAC successfully put 400,000 young children in primary school, gave 90 percent of households in obscure locations healthcare and lifted 86,975 households in Bangladesh out of extreme poverty.
  6. BRAC uses its money wisely. It was awarded an AAA rating by the Credit Rating Agency of Bangladesh Ltd (CRAB). This is the highest rating that it could have received from CRAB.
  7. BRAC approaches poverty differently than other NGOs. Using a businesslike approach, BRAC understands that there are factors beyond economics that account for why people are impoverished. BRAC tackles social issues and inequality as well as using its funds to ensure its impacts are more sustainable.
  8. BRAC has four main projects, including social development, social enterprises, investments and a university.
  9. BRAC University is in Dhaka, Bangladesh and is modeled after the NGO. It fosters goodwill by encouraging students to work in careers involved with national development and progress post-graduation.
  10. BRAC enterprises allow individuals to break out of the chains of poverty by equipping them with the necessary tools needed to have a more profound participation in the economy. As a result, it has established many enterprises, one of which is BRAC Dairy, which has become Bangladesh’s top dairy producer and ensures fair prices and treatment for dairy workers. Another example of a BRAC enterprise is BRAC Sanitary Napkin and Delivery Kit, which produces feminine hygiene products to encourage women to stay in school, and home birth delivery kits to ensure that births are sanitary and safe.

These 10 facts about BRAC truly show how influential BRAC is as an NGO. Despite making such large strides already, BRAC does not foresee slowing down anytime soon. In 2021, it aims to empower 20 million individuals to get the services they need and help 110 million people in Bangladesh that are living in poverty.

– Mary McCarthy

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Bangladesh
Although Bangladesh has existed as an independent state for less than 50 years, the cultural and linguistic roots of the Bangla, or Bengali, people are believed to have been established in the seventh century. Despite this rich cultural history, 31.5 percent of the population lives below the poverty line in Bangladesh today. The following 10 facts about poverty in Bangladesh give further context to this nation’s economic struggles.

Poverty in Bangladesh Facts

  1. At 31.5 percent, Bangladesh has the highest percentage of its population living below the national poverty line in South Asia. Nepal, India, the Maldives, Bhutan and Sri Lanka all have poverty rates lower than 25 percent.
  2. Between 1947 and 1970, Bangladesh was a part of Pakistan and was referred to as East Pakistan. For various sociocultural and political reasons, West Pakistan (which is just Pakistan today) practiced economic discrimination against East Pakistan. Between 1947 and 1970, East Pakistan received only 25 percent of the country’s industrial investments and 30 percent of its imports, despite producing 59 percent of the country’s exports.
  3. When a Bengali independence movement began to gather momentum in 1970, West Pakistani leaders initiated a massacre of Bengali people. Now acknowledged as a genocide, this massacre has become known as Operation Searchlight. It is estimated that anywhere between 500,000 and 3 million Bangladeshi people were killed during the genocide.
  4. The oppression and tragic violence that heralded the nation’s inception made for a particularly tough economic starting place. Since 1996, however, the Bangladeshi economy has grown by roughly 6 percent every year despite such roadblocks as political instability, poor infrastructure and slow implementation of economic reforms.
  5. Almost half of Bangladeshis are employed in the agricultural sector, where rice is the most important product. Expert analysts at the World Bank asserts that a “shift in production from rice to higher-value crops will significantly reduce malnutrition, trigger more rapid growth in incomes and create more and better on-farm and non-farm jobs, especially for women and youth.”
  6. Garment exports are the backbone of Bangladeshi industrial sector, accounting for over 80 percent of the country’s exports in 2016. The sector continues to grow, though the industry has been troubled by highly-publicized garment factory accidents that have claimed the lives of more than 1,000 workers in recent years.
  7. Although the official unemployment rate is listed as 4.1 percent, it is estimated that about 40 percent of the population is underemployed. Many individuals who only work a few hours a week for very low wages are officially considered employed, despite the highly insubstantial means available to them.
  8. The Bangladeshi economy is highly dependent on remittances. Remittances from Bangladeshis working overseas accounted for about $15 billion and 8 percent of GDP in 2015.
  9. Though the rates of poverty in Bangladesh are still far from ideal, steady progress towards its production has been shown. Between 2000 and 2010, poverty declined at a steady average of around 1.8 percent.
  10. The World Bank’s Bangladesh Poverty Assessment determined that the falling poverty rate could be attributed to growth in labor income and changing demographics, namely the decline in the birth rate. The resultant lower dependency rates meant increased average income per capita and poverty reduction.

Expert analysis of the Bangladesh Poverty Assessment indicates that poverty in Bangladesh will continue its slow but steady reductive trend with the implementation of several key economic reforms, which include investment in the skills development of its rapidly expanding workforce, coordinating multi-sector development and consolidating safety net programs to be better timed and tailored to the needs of the poor. Following through on these reforms will ensure that many few people in Bangladesh are living in poverty in the future.

– Savannah Bequeaith

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in Bangladesh
The causes of poverty in Bangladesh are tough to tackle, but the country has nonetheless shown impressive improvements and resilience over the years.

For instance, the country has made remarkable progress in poverty reduction in the last couple of decades: according to the World Bank, Bangladesh managed to reduce its poverty rate—defined as the percent of the population living below $1.90 a day—from 44.2 percent in 1991 to 18.5 percent in 2010.

This reduction was possible thanks to a steadily increasing growth rate between five and six percent yearly between 1991 and 2010. Growth resulted primarily from Bangladesh’s expanding textile and garment industry, which draws in $20 billion annually and has given jobs to more than four million people.

 

Poverty in Bangladesh

 

However, poverty remains a serious problem that hinders Bangladesh’s ambition of becoming a middle-income country. Although there are many causes of poverty in Bangladesh, some of the main culprits are calamitous weather, weak infrastructure and gender inequality that prevents women from contributing to the economy.

One of the factors that generate poverty is the prevalence of natural disasters. As a low-lying country situated on the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries to violent weather patterns that regularly destroy crops, homes and lives. Since agriculture supports 47 percent of the population, the losses can be especially devastating: a massive blow from a flood or a cyclone can cut off villages’ access to food, electricity and water.

Additionally, Bangladesh has the disadvantage of being situated on active tectonic boundaries, making it susceptible to earthquakes and tsunamis. A natural disaster can crush gradual progress in a community in an instant.

Another of the main causes of poverty in Bangladesh is the lack of infrastructure. As the densely populated country continues to grow, reliable means to get to work becomes a necessity for people to earn their day’s wages. Bangladesh only spends two percent of its GDP on infrastructure, while other states such as China, Thailand and Vietnam invest more than seven percent. Although spending on infrastructure can be expensive, not investing in it proves to be costly in the long term.

For instance, poor city planning in the capital, Dhaka, creates severe traffic that chokes 3.2 million hours of productivity in a day, which costs the country millions of dollars lost in GDP per year. This is not to mention the daily waste of fuel that is caused by congestion.

Lastly, compared to international standards, women have a low labor force participation rate of only 34 percent in 2013. In contrast, 82 percent of Bangladeshi men are in the workforce. If the percentage of women working matched to that of men, Bangladesh’s GDP would see a 27 percent increase.

Women taking part in the economy is crucial: according to research published in The Atlantic, “gender inequality and poverty are closely intertwined; tackling the former means mitigating the latter.”

Some factors that hinder women from working include the lack of reliable and affordable transportation, the absence of child care and cultural biases against women from working in the same spaces as men.

Although dealing with the causes of poverty in Bangladesh are complex, the country has made extraordinary developments since the time of its independence in 1971. Once dismissively called a “basket case” due to rampant poverty, it is described now as “the land of impossible attainment:” it moves up regardless of hurdles.

Maria Gumerov

Photo: Flickr

Education in BangladeshBangladesh has made remarkable gains over the past two decades in the education sector. In 2016, statistics from Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics (BANBEIS) showed great developments in gross enrollment with 112.1 percent of children listed in primary education. The ratio of girls to boys also improved that same year. This allowed Bangladesh to achieve gender equality for educational access in both primary and secondary education. Despite victory in registration and elimination of gender disproportion, challenges continue to keep Bangladesh from advancing further. Here are three problems facing education in Bangladesh.

  1. Literacy
    The UNESCO Institute for Statistics shows Bangladesh literacy rates still need some upgrading. Approximately 30 percent of the population 15 years or older still struggle to successfully read and write. According to the Bangladesh Education for All  (EFA) 2015 National Review, the blame could partially be placed on the obstacles involved with universal access and completion of primary education. Public examination scores for Bangladesh show a gap between grade completers, those sitting for the public completion examination, and those passing the examination.
  2. Assessment Scores
    National Student Assessments from this same EFA report display low test scores at the end of the primary education cycle. Test results show only 25 percent of students successfully obtain reading capabilities by the end of primary school. Similarly, only 33 percent of students master proficiencies in mathematics. The rest of students finish primary education with knowledge that is short of expectations in the reading, writing and math curriculum for Bangladesh. Findings from earlier grades conclude that many students are falling short of achieving relevant competencies because they are not meeting appropriate targets set early on. If students do not consistently meet recommended goals throughout primary education, weak scores will continue to result.
  3. Dropout Rates
    UNICEF suggests the Bangladesh dropout rate remains an issue due to children’s need to help with farming, poor teaching methods, crowded classrooms and unappealing educational surroundings. Though the average dropout rate shows a decrease of more than half during 2005 to 2013, 19.2 percent of students still do not complete primary school. According to BANBEIS Educational Database, 10.5 percent of boys dropped out of Grade 4 in 2016. This contributed to the total dropout rate of almost 10 percent of students in Grade 4 that same year. It is also noted that progress in decreasing dropout rates is beginning to slow. Since 2012, dropout rates have only decreased by about 2 percent. This is sluggish activity compared to the 23.1 percent decline recorded from 2008 through 2012.

By focusing on reducing poverty, education in Bangladesh should continue to improve. Speed bumps are part of the road trip towards Bangladesh accomplishing the most out of their education system. With these three problems facing education in Bangladesh already known to researchers, policies can be made to steer future direction.

Emilee Wessel

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Bangladesh
“I don’t want to think about my life. It’s a very hard story.” This is the nation’s cry that representatives of the BRAC Programme hear countless times. Village communities in Bangladesh have withstood such extreme poverty conditions that the majority of the population are illiterate, cannot afford to eat, and many families have to separate from and relocate children in order to provide efficient child-rearing.

According to The Guardian, the BRAC Programme, otherwise known as the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, seeks to equip impoverished individuals with accessibility to tangibles in the form of livestock so that they are able to financially sustain themselves within two years. Rather than providing a temporary fix, “poverty graduation,” as BRAC calls it, develops confident, self-sustaining people through financial education, literacy and learning to care for livestock. Children especially benefit from economic improvements as the likelihood of displacement has decreased and education opportunities have increased. In the village of Karli, every child now attends school, which is an increase from just 20 percent ten years ago.

BRAC also serves as a source of relief for recent disasters such as the fire that took place Dec. 4 in Korail, “the biggest slum” located in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Within the first hour of the fire, BRAC staffers were at ground zero helping facilitate first aid camps, provide food and water and connect victims with family members. The fire that rapidly spread destroyed 495 homes making 2,000 people homeless. According to the BRAC response team, it will cost 12.4 million Bangladesh taka (USD$156,000) to rebuild what was lost. Fortunately, thanks to the seven-day donation drive supporting the victims of Korail, BRAC has assisted in raising 8.8 million takas.

Continual success occurs in Bangladesh as a result of BRAC efforts; 90,000 families a year receive assistance and a total of more than “1.7 million households have been transformed.” Thirty-five-year-old Rezia Begum recalls she “was half naked when BRAC arrived, I didn’t even have clothes.” That was almost 20 years ago; now she owns her own land and animals, all six of her children have received an education, and she participates in charitable acts rather than relying on contributions.

As one of the world’s leading organizations that targets poverty, the BRAC Programme seeks to empower impoverished people by tackling poverty “at the root, and plants trees of hope.” It is this newfound hope that can transform the narrative from heartache into joy in overcoming the conditions of poverty.

Amy Williams

Photo: Flickr

climate_change_in_bangladesh
Within the scientific community, it is a foregone conclusion that developing coastal nations with lowland geography are the most susceptible to impending climatic changes. Bangladesh has recently begun to see these effects with sea levels rising and more frequent and intensified weather conditions. Being situated in Southeast Asia, the country is already susceptible to monsoons, landslides, hurricanes and natural flooding. These factors present an alarming set of natural environmental implications.

This is especially true for a country where a quarter of the land area is less than 7 feet above sea level. Bangladeshi scientists have estimated that by 2050, 17 percent of the country area will have been submerged. This would displace roughly 18 million people and, in turn, significantly cut the country’s food supply.

Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated and underdeveloped countries in the world. The country has roughly a fifth of the land area of France and contains a population of about 166 Million. This has resulted in an incredibly high population density at 755 persons per km. This set of circumstances poses a serious problem for almost all current climate projections and estimates.

The overpopulation has also caused a great strain upon the country’s remaining fertile lands. Bangladesh lies in the Ganges River Delta which is made up of over 230 rivers and streams. Approximately 55 percent of the country’s low lying geography is arable land, making agriculture one of Bangladesh’s biggest industries. Currently, 45 percent of the country’s workforce lives in and relies upon a suddenly shrinking agriculture industry.

As flooding increases and sea levels rise, there is simply not enough arable land to sustain a country of over 160 million people. The country’s economy is mostly agrarian-based and many residents are subsistence farmers. The floods have completely destroyed many of the county’s rice crops which are a staple of the Bangladeshi diet and crucial for many farmers’ livelihoods.

Historical data shows that floods have increased in frequency, intensity and duration since Bangladesh’s independence in 1971. This past summer, flooding in Northern Bangladesh left half a million people displaced and homeless. The two main rivers of Bangladesh, the Meghna and the Brahmaputra, rose to dangerous levels and completely flooded 14 of the country’s 64 districts. Being displaced from their homes, people sought refuge in makeshift shelters, and in some cases, schools.

In response to these conditions, Bangladesh has initiated a National Plan of Action and National Climate Change Strategy. The programs have begun a process of dredging rivers, raising levees and pumping water to compensate for increased flood conditions. The programs have also focused on creating early warning systems and has built over 2,500 concrete storm shelters. Almost 6,000 km of embankments have been constructed in efforts to combat heightened flood conditions. Additionally, 200 flood shelters have been built as well as almost 5,000 km of drainage channels meant to redirect the flow of floods.

These measures have made a significant impact in short term disaster safety. In 1970, before any sort of emergency response infrastructure, Cyclone Bhola killed an estimated 550,000 Bangladeshis. This stands in comparison to 200 casualties during Cyclone Aila in 2009. While the latter was still a disaster of immense proportions, the disaster preparedness and response measures were clearly evident and effective in terms of saving lives.

In 2013, emergency measures were once again tested when tropical storm Mahasen broke Bangladeshi shores. An estimated one million people from 13 coastal districts were evacuated north to shelters and fortified locations. This was accomplished through a procedure of government alerts, notifications and by collaboration of thousands of volunteers.

A statement by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs read, “While tropical storm Mahasen reached the coastline of Bangladesh on Thursday weaker than anticipated, the preparedness work undertaken by the Government and humanitarian partners saved countless lives.” This provides further evidence that the disaster mitigation protocols have been effective.

However, being a developing nation in an increasingly dangerous climate, Bangladesh is still relying upon developed countries and NGOs to jointly make changes in both emissions standards and practices. Acute response tactics can certainly provide temporary solutions for saving lives and crops, but measures with a long term focus are necessary for a solution to a much greater global issue.

Frasier Petersen

Sources: BBC, New York Times, United Nations Environmental Programme, Science Direct
Photo: Oxfam