Rising From The Waters – Helping Communities Cope With Disaster In Bangladesh
In July and August 2011, strong rains in Sathkira in south-west Bangladesh led to flooding that left fields and villages under water for several months, and thousands of people struggling for survival.
WFP provided high-energy biscuits to 35,000 families in August 2011, a quick response made possible thanks to emergency stockpiles funded by AusAID. The ready-to-eat food provided a first source of nutrients to this highly vulnerable population with little access to other food sources.
In areas that remained submerged for months, inhabitants were left stranded in shelters or make-shift huts on the side of raised roads and embankments.
With support from the Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department of the European Commission (ECHO) WFP distributed rice and pulses, and cooperated with CARE who complemented the rations with vegetable oil. The food helped families meet their food and nutrition needs during this time of crisis.
Three months after the disaster, markets in the area were fully functional again but due to persistent water-logging many people were unable to find work and earn money to feed their families. With support from the British Department for International Development (DFID), WFP distributed cash to people in need.
Undernutrition is especially harmful in the first 1000 days of life, from conception to two years of age, when it can impact physical and mental development for a lifetime.
In the aftermath of the flooding, WFP helped ensure pregnant and lactating women and young children in affected areas received the nutrients they need by distributing Super Cereal Plus, a wheat-soya blend fortified with essential vitamins and minerals that can easily be used in local recipes.
In close cooperation with the government and NGO partners, and with support from ECHO, WFP worked with trained volunteers in each community to monitor the nutrition status of children under five. The volunteers helped ensure that every child found to be undernourished received fast and effective treatment, and conducted follow-up home visits to support households.
When the water finally receded, ECHO provided an additional €3 million (US$3.9 million) to offer communities cash-for-work activities to repair damaged infrastructure and enhance their resilience to future disasters, and to support nutrition activities reaching out to the most vulnerable.
Villagers identified schemes that would bring them the greatest protection and would help increase agricultural production: They re-excavated canals, re-built and strengthened embankment and raised roads.
Cash-for-training activities, also funded by ECHO, complemented the asset repair and creation. Participants learned how to prepare for disasters and how to react in the event of another emergency. They also received training on good nutrition and hygiene habits, and learned how to establish homestead gardens to boost their families’ nutrition.
Jesmin Begum (35) established such a garden after this training. Aside from using her vegetables in the meals she prepares for herself, her husband and their two children, she also gains some income by selling them to neighbours.
In September/October 2012 the rains fell as heavy as the year before, but this time the extent of water-logging was limited thanks to the canals and embankments constructed with ECHO support. WFP extended the relief operation to support 3500 heavily impacted households in Satkhira district with food and cash for three months.
In other areas, canals like this one helped drain floodwaters quickly. Now, in the dry season, it also provides irrigation for adjacent fields.
The southern costal belt of Bangladesh is especially vulnerable to natural disasters and its inhabitants frequently have to battle storms, tidal surges, waterlogging after floods and the increasing salinity of the soil.
After heavy and prolonged flooding in 2011 and 2012, an ECHO-funded WFP emergency response and recovery operation not only helped people through the crisis but also assisted them to become more resilient and prepared for future disasters.