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Surviving 15 floods in a lifetime

Cash, relief, and skills training help lives flourish after floods in Bangladesh

“I have come here after getting displaced by floods for the fifteenth time in my lifetime,” says Fulchan Sadhu of Tangail. Fulchan and his family have to find a new place to call home every time after floods devour their house, submerging their neighbourhoods. Millions of families face such threats every year in flood-prone areas of Bangladesh.

Eight years ago Fulchan moved to his current home on an isolated char island near the Dhaleswari river in Tangail, central Bangladesh. Ever since, he has been struggling to adjust to this new place with his family, including their young son. In 2019, Fulchan survived yet another massive flood that nearly swept everything away, leaving his house damaged and drying up his work and income from running a small shop on the island.

Fulchan’s experiences are shared by millions of people in Bangladesh, who are facing more severe climate-related disasters including floods and cyclones. It has been a similar story of hardship for Joynab, 77, who has been displaced by floods more than once.

Joynab explains how she has survived the floods despite many rough times. Her husband died many years ago, and her children do not live nearby and no longer provide any emotional or financial support. Joynab gets by, managing to carry out her daily chores even though she has physical disabilities and there is no one in her community who can provide any support or take care of her.

After my husband passed away, I had to struggle alone. My children do not support me. When my house was damaged during the floods in 2019, I could not reconstruct it as I had no income. I was also in debt. I had no place to go and had to suffer a lot during monsoon rains and bad weather.

Both Fulchan and Joynab have turned their fortunes, with support from Bangladesh Red Crescent Society and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Fulchan says it meant the world to him when he received a 25,000 Bangladeshi Taka (300 US dollars) grant to rebuild his shop and buy new stock. He had been devastated when his small grocery shop in front of his house was destroyed by the floods, leaving it closed meaning he had no income for several months.

Originally Fulchan had no idea how he would feed his family. Now, life is looking up as the shop is bigger and serves as a community hub. He has set up a ‘carrom’ meeting board and few chairs in front of the shop and the place is always buzzing with people coming from different corners of the village. Fulchan is quite famous among the members of his local community as a spiritual person. Many people come to spend time with him and have a conversation. Fulchan loves playing a role in helping with community conversations and well-being.

I sell all sorts of goods now. Earlier, it was a small shop and I used to have a daily sale of around 25 US dollars. But now, I sell three times as much as before. My family is more than solvent now!

In the evening, Fulchan sells local homemade snacks. His wife does much of the food preparation and cooking – cutting the vegetables, onions and chili, preparing the pans, arranging firewood. Their snacks are popular among the villagers so he sells a good amount every day, adding some extra money to their pockets to help the family with daily expenses.

After losing her house twice to the mighty Jamuna river in central Bangladesh, Joynab, lived in temporary huts made of straw and bamboo. Joynab desperately needed a better house as moderate rain and storms caused her terrible trouble.

Recently, Joynab finally moved into a new, flood-resilient house and she says it is a big relief as she can live with a peace of mind. “Now, I am more than happy with my new house. I do not have to worry about the upcoming flood,” Joynab says. Bangladesh Red Crescent and the IFRC have also supported Joynab with a strong and flood-resilient toilet to make life easier.

Joynab’s livelihood has changed leaps and bounds. With a cash grant of 25,000 Taka (300 US dollars), Joynab bought two sheep and a goat, which provides her milk and gives her security.

Two years ago, Joynab lost her home and her hope but in recent months, life has changed for the better. Joynab says she can now manage three meals a day, something she couldn’t imagine just a year ago. She says what makes her most satisfied, is the sense of security with her new home, toilet facilities, and a source of income.

Recovering from major disasters takes years. Bangladesh Red Crescent and the IFRC have been working closely with two communities in Tangail and Sirajganj districts to support them to recover in the longer term after floods swamped their communities in 2019.

More than 610 families have been supported with flood resilient houses, toilets, water tube-wells, cash grants to help people re-establish their livelihoods and incomes. Fulchan, Joynab and other families have been supported with vegetable seeds and tree saplings plus other support to help rebuild areas that were devastated by the floods.

Volunteers and experts have been helping train thousands of people on the best way to reduce risks ahead of future floods, how to administer lifesaving first aid, improve sanitation and hygiene, and manage livestock to reduce loss when the next disaster strikes. Fulchan and Joynab both agree that they are happy to be self-reliant and they feel better prepared to survive the next flood.

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Story from IFRC Asia Pacific


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