By Raqibul Alam, IFRC

Beauty Beowa, 25, has lost all her livestock but her loved ones have survived record floods in Bangladesh.

Now, Beauty and her two children, aged eight and six, are living in a partially destroyed house. Dubbed one of the worst floods the country has ever seen, the disaster has swamped close to half of Bangladesh.

Around 6.9 million people have been affected in the biggest floods in decades and 117 lives have been lost.

Beauty’s biggest concern is finding enough food for her family. Having lost her husband two years ago, Beauty became the family’s sole breadwinner.

“I have never seen this much water in my life,” she says as she stands ankle-deep in a pool of polluted floodwater.

“My house suffered damages. I have lost my cows, goats and chickens. All the paddy fields in this area, including mine are now flooded, and I can’t plant or harvest the crop. I don’t know how I will feed my children in the coming days when the food runs out.”

As a day laborer, Beauty’s main source of income comes from working in the paddy fields. The floods washed away everything, robbing her of her livelihood.

“My son can’t go to school in this situation. I don’t know how long we will have to live like this,” she adds. “It is really important for us to receive food support, and if I receive some building materials and cash, I can at least repair my house.”

The huge monsoon rains continue to cause rivers to break their banks and flood across the country. Areas surrounding the Brahmaputra-Jamuna and Meghna river basins are especially vulnerable. The north and central parts of the country have experienced big floods since mid August.

More than 600,000 houses have been damaged, and 580,000 acres of crop land have been flooded, leaving farmers and day labourers like Beauty with next to nothing.

As soon as the floods began, volunteers and local branch teams from the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) began evacuating affected communities to safer places. They have distributed cooked meals and dry food to around 22,500 people in the affected districts.

Water purification machines have also been mobilized to provide safe drinking water to families who are marooned in their own houses or whose water wells have been contaminated by the floods.

“Many of our elders said that they have never experienced flooding of this scale,” says Ahmed Shawon, one of the Red Crescent volunteers in Kurigram district. “But as part of the Red Crescent, we are not deterred by the challenges this disaster has brought to us. We are doing our best to help people who are in dire need of help.”

More than 1,000 local volunteers have been deployed in 20 of the hardest-hit areas. “Even with their limited resources, they are doing a great job helping those who are affected,” explains Mr. Mozharul Huq, Secretary General of BDRCS. “Some of our volunteers are engaged with the medical team deployed by the government and are providing first aid support.”