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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Living with disasters

The most vulnerable victims of climate change. Photo: Quddus Alam/ Drik news

ON April 14, 2008, Reuters ran a story on the impact of climate change on Bangladesh. It said: "Abdul Majid has been forced to move 22 times in as many years, a victim of the annual floods that ravage Bangladesh. There are millions like Majid, 65, in Bangladesh and in the future there could be many millions more if scientists' predictions of rising seas and more intense droughts and storms come true."

The fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that as many as 1 million people of Bangladesh will be climate refugees by 2050 due to sea level rise in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna basins in Bangladesh. In the short run, however, the report has predicted severe changes in weather patterns resulting from global warming, which would lead to increased frequency of natural disasters like drought, flood, tornado and cyclone in Bangladesh. Therefore, both in the short-run as well as in the long run, Bangladesh will have to bear with the effects of climate change.

The chain of events following a disaster can be predicted. Floods, for example, destroy property, damage crops, hinder mobility of people, and cause diarrhea/cholera. Cyclones affect properties and lives, create food shortages, bring in diseases, and so on. At the same time, there will be "climate refugees" -- the people affected by river-bank erosions -- and the threat of poverty. The IPCC report predicts that this will be aggravated by loss of land and degradation of land due to rise of water level and rise of salinity in coastal areas.

Who is affected by this? The answer is clear -- children are the most affected group, followed by women and the elderly. It is therefore, important to understand the impact of climate change from these perspectives.

A recently published Save the Children-UK study on the impact of climate change on children reveals; first, poverty will remain deep-rooted; second, the health and nutrition status of people and the children will deteriorate further; and third, the likelihood of diseases like malaria, jaundice, diarrhea, and similar water-borne diseases will increase in Bangladesh. However, it is also true that the whole of Bangladesh will not be affected by disasters similarly and simultaneously.

Bangladesh is a disaster prone country. Climate change is unlikely to bring in any new types of disasters, rather it will intensify and aggravate the effects of these disasters. Given this background, we can assess the impact of climate change on children -- particularly from the poor households.

To analyse the impacts, the Save the Children-UK study divided Bangladesh into zones of natural disasters like flood and flash flood, cyclone, and drought prone zones. The results provide a better understanding of the socio-economic impacts of climate change on children.

The flood prone zones, consisting of almost all the districts except greater districts of Dinajpur, Rajshahi, Kushtia, Jessore, Chittagong Hills, and the coastal areas (nearly 70% land mass of Bangladesh), will experience severe food shortages because of crop losses due to untimely or prolonged floods.

Low-lying flood plains of Rangpur, Dhaka, and upper Barisal regions, and the haor regions of Sylhet are affected by both the pre-monsoon flash floods and the regular flood. Food shortages will also affect these areas. Prolonged flooding will reduce availability of food, intensify poverty, accelerate migration of young and working adults, increase divorce and separation in the families, as well as cause more forced vacations in schools. Women and children living in these areas will be severely affected by climate change. Children in these areas are likely to take up hazardous jobs, leave school, suffer more from diseases like malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea and jaundice, get involved in crimes and suffer abuse in the society.

The cyclone and tidal surge prone areas are in the coastal zones. These areas will be affected by the immediate and the long-term effects of climate change. Food shortages and migration will significantly increase in the area as the impact of climate change intensifies. Children of these areas will suffer from malnutrition, diseases like diarrhea, skin irritations, pneumonia, and jaundice. School drop-out rate will be on the rise, and children are likely to get absorbed in hazardous jobs.

Drought prone areas are located in greater Dinajpur and Rajshahi. Climate change will moderately affect these areas. However, the extent of damages might multiply if availability of surface water drops dramatically, either due to drought in India or upstream diversion of water. Malnutrition will also increase in these areas. Migration of adults will affect the children, but the impact will be moderate.

We live in a society where children are already the most vulnerable group. Climate change makes them even more vulnerable to diseases, displacement, exploitation and abuse. Given the inevitability and pace of climate change, it is imperative to ensure that the special needs of children are addressed under disaster risk reduction strategies as well as emergency preparedness and emergency response.

Dr. A.K.Enamul Haque is Head of Economics Department, United International University.

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Aboslutely policy oriented findings and we expect both media as well as policymakers should appreciate this type of writings and suggestions. We have real problem not to understand the actual piece of information based on the reliable study and research.

: M.Zakir Hossian Khan

An excellent piece of writing...

Thank You, sir.....

: Adil Mahmood





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