The extreme poverty status of Bangladesh (those with a per capita daily income of less than US$1.25) is reducing significantly in rural areas, but rural poverty is still higher than urban poverty in Bangladesh.

Among the rural extreme poor, people with disabilities are the most marginalized. They are often excluded both from their communities and from development initiatives. Women and children are most vulnerable. They are the poorest of the poor.

WHO and World Bank estimates that about 10% of the population in developing have a disability. However, there is lack of nationally representative study or survey on disability in Bangladesh. Other available studies like the Population Census 2011 and Household Income and Expenditure Survey 2011 show that the prevalence of persons with disability ranging from 0.90% to 1.41%.

Disability and disaster

Disasters like cyclones, tornadoes, thunderstorms and injuries from road accidents, and workplace accidents increase the number of disabilities. A study of Centre for Injury Prevention and Research, conducted in Bangladesh in the aftermath of super cyclone SIDR in 2007, revealed that most deaths occurred from drowning and multiple injuries. Among the nonfatal cases there was around 10% who were at risks of permanent disability if there were not treated properly.

Including disabled people

The mighty river Jamuna flows through Sirajganj. It has a population of 3,215,873, (51.14% male: 48.86% female. Most of the areas of Sirajganj are eroded by the Jamuna (river) and newly developed areas on the river are known as Char. The people of Char areas face discrimination in all sorts of areas of modern society. Moreover, they are often attacked by natural disasters like flood, windstorm, thunderstorm, drought and heavy rain.

Floods, tornadoes and thunderstorms cause both fatal and nonfatal injuries. Besides, this district bridges the northern and southern parts of Bangladesh with rivers and roadways. Therefore people are at high risks of road traffic injuries too. Besides, flood and river bank erosion are recurrent phenomenon adversely affecting the socio-economic conditions of the people, most of whom are farmers. The Vulnerability to Resilience (V2R) project of Practical Action Bangladesh is working to build the resilience of flood vulnerable people of Sirajganj and Bogra District. The project has emphasized the inclusion of disabled people to improve their livelihoods. From the design stage of the project people with disability have been targeted. A short survey in the communities found that 10.34% of households are holding with disability including physical disability such a lameness, or speech, sight or hearing loss.

It was also revealed that people with disability were less happy. A disabled person is seen as curse on the family and treated as a family burden and often neglected. If the disabled person is the household head or earning member then the whole family goes is vulnerable.

In the monsoon the project organised preparedness and awareness raising events including disabled people. Community Based Organizations (CBO)were trained to do emergency and response work with disability. Dduring search and rescue work the Community Based Organizations (CBO) move them first. The Local Resilience Agents (LRAs) also provided close and comprehensive assistance on preparedness, search and rescue work. In resilience building initiatives uplifting the incomes of poor people is important. So when an income generating initiative is underway, we give priority to families with members with disability as they are most vulnerable to any disaster.

Md. Nur Hossain(45), Ranipura Village of Belkuchi Upazila is paralyzed and has no land. The five members of his family were dependent on his wife’s (Morshida Khatun) income. She used to work part time in a weaving factory as daily labourer, selling clothes from house to house. Her income was not enough to cover household consumption so that they had to depend on gifts from relatives.

In 2014 when the V2R+ project began in Ranipura Village, as a flood vulnerable community Murshida Khatun’s household was included as project beneficiaries. In 2016, Murshida Khatun got 8000 Tk (£80) with one-day of training on business management from the project. She provided her husband with a tiny stall of of dry food and fast food items. Her husband can easily handle those as he does not need to use any fire or lift heavy weighst. He is now planning to buy a digital weight measuring scale that is easy to use for people unable to carry heavy weights. Having an income from both husband and wife is helping them to find their way out of misery and inspiring them to live with dignity.

This blog was first published in Practical Action.

Md. A. Halim Miah is currently working as Knowledge Service Coordinator at Practical Answers, Practical Action, Bangladesh.

You can contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Co-author Gurudas Biswas, Monitoring and Documentation Officer, V2R+ project, Bangladesh.

Submit a Question