What made a woman marooned on a flooded island refuse help?
Would you pass up on essential aid without knowing when the next boat might come by?
When the Jamuna river floods, it shows no mercy.
Inhabitants of the Jamuna’s chars (shifting river islands) are especially vulnerable in times of flood. Death is a real threat, and even survivors are left defenceless to deal with the dangerous aftermath (including starvation, disease and lack of safe drinking water).
Kazi Amdadul Hoque, Head of Friendship’s Disaster Management sector, had been helping organise and distribute relief packages to Baishpara, a remote village in Roumari, Kurigram. He tells this amazing story of care for others, even in adversity:
“We had just finished distributing relief supplies by boat to Baishpara, when another boat approached with more supplies from a fellow aid organisation. Hamida, a woman from the village appointed as co-chairperson of our Disaster Management Committee, saw the boat approaching and told the aid worker, ‘We have already received aid. Take it to another char!’
“Her fellow villagers were astonished and confused. Why did she want to pass up essential aid that had only just reached them with difficulty, given that nobody knew when the next boat might come by. Even the aid workers were telling her to just take what they had brought. But she insisted that the relief be given to another village, one that had not yet received aid and that needed it more.”
One aid package (typically containing rice, lentils, oil, utensils, oral saline, water purifying tablets) might last a family a week. There was no telling at this point how long the flood might last. The fact that aid had reached the village by no means ensured its survival. It would simply tide the villagers over for a few days. However, they all eventually agreed that they should not get two aid packages when another villager, only a few kilometres away, might be dying of starvation.
“I will never forget that woman’s courage,” concludes Amdad. “During extreme crisis, I have found that people often find unusual moral strength and courage. Emergency aid is necessary to overcome adversity, but aid is only part of the solution. Hamida showed why nurturing ethical behaviour and a sense of caring and responsibility within the community are just as important.”