DHAKA, 14th August 2007: As the Thai Airways flight made its final approach to Dhaka nearly all the passengers leaned over to look out the windows as the plane angled towards the runway of the capital’s international airport. The city below resembled thousands of small islands literally covering vast areas of what were until recently communities of houses, farmlands and rivers.
The extent of the flooding, the worst in a decade, has been immense. More than one million people have been left marooned on small patches of higher ground, their homes damaged, crops and livestock and livelihoods lost.
According to DMIC (the government Disaster Alert Agency) a total of 22,097 sq. kilometers has been inundated by flood waters with nearly eight million people affected, a number that is growing daily and which could rise to 25 million.
The DMIC has estimated that more than half a million homes have been damaged (52,297 fully; 480,435 partially).
At Dhaka Hospital a temporary short stay unit has been set up on the parking lot of the hospital to care for the nearly 1,000 men, women and children who have fallen ill with diarrhea and cholera.
Dr. Azharal Islam Khan has his hands full with people being carried into the hospital all throughout the day, The beds lined up one after the other attest to the severity of the effects of the flood.
“The number of patients we are seeing is constant each day,” he says.
Rays Bazaar, a slum settlement on the edge of the city along the main river, is now a crowded mass of makeshift tents, metal and plastic shelters and families who have lost most sources of income. Thirty-three-year-old Mohidul holds out his hands and touches his stomach. “We are all hungry here but no one comes to help us,” he says. “I have a wife and two children and although I can work at pulling a rickshaw my wife cannot work anymore because of the flooding.”
“Look around at all the people,” he says. “Most have very little to eat now as there is no work. What can we do?”
Children run along the mud banks with water where their houses once stood. Fisherman tend to nets they have erected along the shoreline but few fish are caught they complain.
Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh is responding to the needs of affected Habitat home owners in the eight districts where it is active. First reports indicate 138 families have had their homes flooded and 214 families have lost their livelihoods.
A Habitat for Humanity disaster-response team is visiting the communities on August15-17th to assess the damage to Habitat homes and meet home partner families.
The outlines of a response are already taking shape. The first phase of the assessment will be to monitor the situation the damage down to Habitat homes. It is also planned to distribute oral re-hydration solution and water purification tablets to home partner families and other families in each community.
The second phase will assess what types of repairs are needed. To assist homeowners with their mortgage repayments, Habitat plans to cover the cost of repayments for a period of up to three or four months.
The third phase will provide funds each for family for house repairs: a figure of US$200 per family is being considered at this stage. A fourth phase will seek to replace the livestock lost during the flooding as well as providing seeds to farmers to replant their fields.
It is too early to know the number of families Habitat will assist, the extent of damage and the cost of any rebuilding effort.
HFH Bangladesh has built and rehabilitated approximately 1,000 homes. It operates mainly through Habitat Resource Centers and related satellite centers in local communities. Many projects are under taken in partnership with other non-governmental organizations.