By Corinne Ambler/IFRC
Laal Banu, 40, a widow and mother of five, has lost many of her modest possessions and faces an uncertain future after floods in northern Bangladesh devastated her home.
As water surged all around, she fled to higher ground on the tiny island of Beraberi and camped on an embankment under plastic sheeting in the rain and heat for six days.
Her family lost its cattle, which they were planning to sell for the religious Eid holiday. “I do not know how long it will take us to get back to normal life,” Laal says.
One of Laal’s neighbours, Adere Begum, is a mother of two children and she is pregnant with her third child. Adere describes how she managed to flee from her home with her children as the terrifying floodwaters swept in to her home and across: “It’s natural for us, flooding, but this time it was above knee level in the house.”
“The children were frightened of the snakes in the water. They were shouting, ‘Snakes, snakes!’. A lot of my pet animals died – ducks, chickens, goats and cows, all drowned and were washed away,” Adere says.
Adere takes her remaining cow to cool down in the river. She explains that the loss of the animals means that she has no income, and that she hopes to receive some cash to help buy more livestock.
When the small boat carrying Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers pulls up to the muddy shoreline of the island, two lines of people, male and female, are already waiting in the hot sun for food.
Today, 630 of the island’s most vulnerable people receive a family food parcel containing a week’s worth of food – staples such as rice, dal, salt, sugar, semolina and oil. They’ll also receive purified drinking water.
It seems help has arrived just in time. Abu Bakar, 65, says he is rationing food after being marooned for seven days. “I am very happy that today I received a food pack from Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS). I feared we would starve and it has relieved that fear.”
Those who live along the Jamuna River are used to seasonal floods, but many say this is the worst they can remember. The floods have killed 1400 people across South Asia, including 144 in Bangladesh, where 8.3 million people have been affected.
The Bangladesh Red Crescent Society has 1,200 volunteers on the ground helping in the five worst-affected districts, providing food, water and relief items to those most in need of support, including pregnant women, children, older people and those with a disability.
So far, 37,000 people have received dry food and safe water, and another 65,000 have benefited from the one-week family food parcels. The Red Crescent’s mobile medical teams have also been out treating those injured or sick due to the severe floods.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched an appeal of 4.7 million Swiss francs so Bangladesh Red Crescent Society can help 100,000 of the most vulnerable with food assistance, access to safe water, sanitation, hygiene, emergency shelter, cash grants and support to re-establish livelihoods.