Increased funding from international donors and agencies is needed to meet the critical health, protection and livelihood needs of children and their families devastated by the recent flooding in Bangladesh, which has claimed the lives of hundreds of people and displaced millions from their homes.
“The situation is far from over, and will only continue to worsen if humanitarian funding is not provided,” says Orla Murphy, Country Director for Plan International Bangladesh. “With millions of families displaced, and a vast percentage of crops destroyed, a large portion of communities will face food shortages in the coming week. If not addressed now, this could become a humanitarian crisis very quickly.”
Severe food shortages
Scores of families remain in temporary camps and many are living on the roadside without either toilet facilities or water. With hectors of crop fields destroyed, farmers have lost their only source of income, leaving families without any immediate access to food.
“Families are selling their livestock and assets, skipping meals, and resorting to negative coping strategies, which may compromise their health and well-being. If not dealt with, families may resort to unfavourable decisions, like forcing their children to work in hazardous conditions in order to increase the household income. Child trafficking is also a potential risk as parents leave the home in search of work,” says Murphy.
“Children living on the streets, embankments and in temporary shelters may find themselves in unsafe and hazardous conditions, increasing their susceptibility to abuse and sexual harassment. Without adequate privacy, adolescent girls – particularly those on their monthly period, are waiting until nightfall to use the toilet, increasing their vulnerability as they travel at night.”
Addressing children’s critical needs
Working in coordination with the Government, local partners and in-country humanitarian agencies, immediate priorities for Plan International include: distribution of life-saving materials including food, water, sanitation and hygiene, and temporary provision of education services along with protection support.
the flood has washed everything away including our home.
More than 1,000 schools have been affected, which would normally provide girls and boys with a sense of safety and comfort at a time of such upheaval and distress.
Lipi, 13, a secondary school student in Kurigram District says, “the flood which lasted for a week has washed everything away including our home; we are trapped in the highland with no electricity or food. I have not been going to school for the last few weeks and I don’t know when I will go again.”
In the longer-term, Plan International will restore livelihoods through agricultural means, provide skills training and cash-based support, and to strengthen child protection systems at the local level in order to further reduce the risk of trafficking and exploitation.