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The perils of living with river erosion

Bangladesh: The perils of living with river erosion

After losing her husband more than 40 years ago and her sons in recent years, 81-year-old Amir Jan Bibi has been living a difficult life with her daughter. As the only surviving child, her daughter, who used to work as a cleaner in the Upazila Health Complex in Naria, lost her job when the entire complex collapsed into the Padma River due to erosion.

The incident also destroyed Amir Jan’s home and many other infrastructures along the riverbank. “We have lost everything due to the river erosion,” says Amir Jan when she was approached by Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers. “Today, I have no house and not even a toilet. This is a very undignified way of living.” After assessing her current living conditions, the Red Crescent volunteers enlisted her as one of the most people urgently needing support.

Shariatpur District in Bangladesh is situated along the Padma River, the biggest river system in the country. For decades, the riverbank has faced constant erosion. A recent report from NASA indicates that since 1967, over 66,000 hectares or 256 square miles of land have been lost to erosion due to the river. According to the report, every year hundreds of hectares of land erode and fall into the river. As of September 2018, around 5 kilometers of eroded riverbank displaced more than approximately 43,500 people and damaged hundreds of acres of crop-land in Shariatpur district.

The Bangladesh Red Crescent has decided to distribute 1,000 tarpaulins and 1,000 shelter toolkits from the existing in-country disaster preparedness stock to 1,000 families, like that of Amir Jan Bibi. To help communities recover and support the Red Crescent in responding to the most urgent needs of the people who have been affected by the river erosion, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has allocated 314,122 Swiss francs (approximately 319,800 US dollars) from its disaster relief emergency fund to provide much needed humanitarian assistance to 15,000 people.

By Sharif Khan & Sajid Hasan, IFRC

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