Fifty years, fifty countries: Bangladesh

FloodsClimate changeCommunity Empowerment50 CountriesBangladesh

‘Though the news of the Bangladesh flood disaster in September last year quickly faded from our TV screens, thousands of Bangladeshi people still face an uphill struggle to rebuild their shattered livelihoods.’

You might think this quote refers to the massive flooding in 2017, but it’s actually from the spring edition of Tear Times in 1988.

And back in 1970, Tearfund’s first response in what would become Bangladesh was rescue and rehabilitation work after a lethal tidal wave. Flooding again in 1974 compounded the desperate need of a young nation reeling from civil war, and Tearfund’s partners have been working to release communities from poverty since the birth of the nation.

After the floods
Bangladesh is one of the world's most densely populated countries. Its people are crammed into a delta of rivers that empty out into the Bay of Bengal. Most of Bangladesh is low-lying and incredibly vulnerable to flooding.

As such, preparing communities to withstand, and recover from, disasters has been a critical aspect of Tearfund’s work in this country for many years.

Like many in her village, Selma* and her husband were very poor with no fixed income. She worked at home, as her husband and father-in-law went to work in the fields. And when regular monsoon flooding came even the little they had was often wiped away.

But when Tearfund partner LAMB started working in Selma’s community, things changed.

Helping themselves
Following training given by LAMB, Selma joined 20 other women to form a savings group. In time, this allowed her to take a loan to buy piglets and chicks, which she reared. She sold the piglets six months later for a profit and is now selling eggs in the market. Selma has helped to secure her family’s future.

Prabin* is an active church leader in a similar community. He has regularly attended training and seminars organised by LAMB.

‘There have been meaningful changes in the community over the last two years,’ he says. ‘Eighteen families have improved their financial status through poultry rearing and 43 families are using new knowledge to establish and maintain kitchen gardens. We have created a contingency plan and a community fund for use during emergencies. We are all praising God for these blessings.’

A changing climate
With 80 per cent of its land area prone to flooding, Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the impacts of global climate change.

The Government of Bangladesh is committed to increasing the country’s resilience to climate change, as well as reducing the risks posed to national development. A National Climate Change Resilience Fund was established in 2010.

‘Climate change worsens many of the current problems and natural hazards the county faces,’ explains Jacob Sarker, Head of Tearfund’s work in Bangladesh. ‘The higher temperature and changing rainfall patterns, coupled with increased flooding and drought, are likely to reduce crop yields and crop production.’

All of these changes threaten the food security, livelihoods and health of those living in poverty and underline the importance of helping communities overcome these challenges.

If you'd like to know more please visit the Bangladesh country page.

Please pray with us for the continuing work in Bangladesh:

  • Praise God for the amazing response to the South Asia floods appeal last year, which enabled LAMB to immediately provide life-saving aid to over 10,000 people and set up 14 medical camps, among other interventions.
  • Pray for communities all over Bangladesh who are still rebuilding after the floods. Pray that they would be encouraged and that they would receive the help and training they need to be better prepared for future disasters.
  • Pray for the government of Bangladesh and for our partners working hard to overcome the challenges of the changing climate. Pray for wisdom and for good working relationships that will benefit those being affected by climate change.

* names changed to protect identity

Cheryl Bannatyne

Cheryl is a copywriter for Tearfund where she gets to share the great stories of lives being transformed around the world.