The disaster affecting 5 million people you haven’t heard about

We have lost it all. Our elders say that they have never seen this kind of damage in their lifetime, and neither have I,” says Phool, a Bangladeshi farmer.

Not all human disasters garner media attention. Unknown to many in the international community, in late March a flash flood unexpectedly hit northeastern Bangladesh, destroying 500,000 acres of crops that farmers were about to harvest. Now, five million people have no food, no livelihood, and no resources until next year. Twelve months of grit washed away in a moment.

Flash floods are a yearly phenomenon, but the water came three weeks early this year.
For 70,000 families, their main source of income is from these rice paddy fields.
With his rice crop swamped, it will be challenging for this farmer to feed his family until next year’s harvest.

BRAC emergency response teams visited the affected communities immediately. Based on their assessments, BRAC developed a holistic, ten-month strategy to ensure children stay in school, parents are able to work, and families have enough food.

“We depend on this harvest. It is our main source of food and income. We work in the field all day for months,” says Dipak.

Dipak is the owner of a local shop. Normally, he would spend this time husking and processing the paddy into rice. It’s all gone now, and his two siblings, like many others, left for the city to find other means of living.

“What you are seeing is water. What I see are my crops,” says Phool.

Phool had to sell the cows he owned because he could not afford to feed the animals. Without telling him, Phool’s son, 13, dropped out of school and left for Dhaka to find work.

“I am working as an assistant for a fridge mechanic. I will earn 7,000 taka (or about $87) per month, but I can earn an extra 500 if I work overtime,” says Phool’s son.

Phool worries about his son’s safety in Dhaka. “He needs to continue his education. I promised him that we will find a way,” says Phool.

The disaster has directly affected children’s education across the Haor region. Most of the schools are closed and school attendance has plummeted. Out of school, children are vulnerable to risks such as human trafficking, child labor, and even child marriage.

Amidst the stormy waters, there are rays of light. This child helps his family harvest their drowned crops.

And, when his house was damaged by the floods, Rahmatulla (right) took time off from school to help his family recover. His friend, Kabir (left), went with him to help.

These women live in the affected area.

“We lose crops every year, but this year was the worst. We have not caught any fish and we have no rice. What we know is that we must believe and keep on fighting,” they said.

The people of the Haor region were struck by the worst flooding disaster in years. BRAC is proud to stand with them.

Learn more about what you can do to support the families affected by the floods.

Text by Nhi Tong, BRAC USA | Photos by BRAC

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