Bangladesh – Nearly three years after the Cyclone Aila has crushed Gabura in Shatkhira district, the fight for survival is still going on in this southern union of Bangladesh. People and their makeshift houses are still at risk of being washed away by the monsoon rain and tidal waves, especially in the rainy season.
“Every night we go to sleep in fear, as our house is just on the edge of the dam and that may disappear with the surge of water anytime specially in monsoon,” said Saleha, 40, who lives with her family on the embankment.
Sabur Mia, 70, another Aila victim had led a moderate and happy life with his family before the cyclone Aila hit on May 25, 2009. Now it’s hard for him to get meals for even twice a day. He said, ”I used to fish in sweet water and earn enough to feed my family, but now there is nothing as saltwater has intruded inland everywhere and remains stagnated.”
Like Sabur Mia, many people are still jobless in Gabura. Prior to Aila, the sight of cows, chickens, and other livestock animals were common. Now, it is a very rare sight. Any animals that have survived the catastrophe were sold at reduced prices due to lack of fodder and limited space to live.
Unemployment in Gabura is also forcing people to resort to selling tress collected from the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest. This has further worsened the forest’s eco-systems.
Lured by short-term gains, more and more farmers have switched to shrimp farming and overlook the long-term losses including damage to land fertility, drinking water, and environment. Moreover, climate change has brought out an exodus with any people streaming to Dhaka, Khulna and Chittagong even India by trespassing the border at Bay of Bengal in search for work and better lives.
To improve food security and livelihoods of over two lakh people in this Aila-affected region, Oxfam GB along with five other INGOs partnered together as the NARRI (National Alliance for Risk Reduction and Response Initiatives) Plus consortium to implement an emergency EFSL (Emergency Food Security and Livelihood) project in Khulna and Shatkhira. Under the extension of this project, Oxfam is now working to improve the livelihoods of 5000 households in Gabura Union of Shamnagar sub-district, Shatkhira. It aims to increase the access to meet food security and opportunities to rebuild their livelihoods through cash for work, cash for training and conditional cash grants. ”
The program has helped Kokila a physically challenged woman to earn 175 taka ($2.5) per day. The training she received also helped her to raise awareness about disaster risk reduction, water and sanitation, nutrition and childcare. As a result she now knows what to do when there is an emergency.
“The money we are getting is still very low considering the situation of price hike but something is always better than nothing. Now at least I can buy some vegetables let alone meat or fish for my 75-year-old mother. I would have died from starvation if I hadn’t managed this job.”