Increased unemployment and income loss caused by Coronavirus will make it harder for vulnerable communities in Bangladesh to prepare for floods and landslides this monsoon season.
New research has found that 72 per cent of the population surveyed in Bangladesh were unemployed due to movement restrictions and workplace closures.
Daily wage workers, such as rickshaw and transport drivers, masons, garment workers, small scale traders and farmers have been especially impacted. These groups accounted for nearly half of the surveyed population.
The report warns that flood and landslides from this year’s monsoon season will impact communities more severely because of economic stagnation and COVID-19 health risks.
The warning comes as Bangladesh braces itself for extremely heavy rain, amid fears that rivers are already above danger levels in 14 areas.
Commissioned by Practical Action, Concern Worldwide and Mercy Corps on behalf of the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance, “Monsoon, floods and COVID-19: building community resilience in Bangladesh”, surveyed 15 Union Disaster Management Committees (UMDC) across three districts, home to 380,000 people.
Co-author, Afsari Begum, Senior Specialist for Disaster Risk Reduction, from Practical Action in Bangladesh said:
“We’re concerned that a lot of people will be pushed further into poverty because of Coronavirus. If communities are battered by intense storms and floods that destroy or damage homes, agricultural land, schools and hospitals, it will only make things worse.
“What is frustrating is that Practical Action already has proven solutions to these problems. We just need additional investment to bring them to scale so that climate change and monsoons don’t add further shocks to the economic problems people are facing. Unless the funds are put in the right place, this could tip many people over the edge and the effects on vulnerable communities will be catastrophic.”
The survey was conducted through phone interviews with UDMC representatives to understand their readiness for the monsoon rains and flooding season, amid the COVID-19 health crisis.
Union Disaster Management Committees report:
- 72% of the population to be unemployed due to movement restrictions and workplace closures;
- Lack of income, increase in prices of goods and market closures are leading to challenges to purchase food and essential items for hygiene and sanitation maintenance such as hand soap;
- Cultivation of agriculture products is difficult due to lack of seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides in the market;
- Concerns of the monsoon induced floods exacerbating socio-economic and health conditions of vulnerable groups and pushing people into poverty;
- Nearly 90% of people are not fully aware of proper hygiene and sanitation practices to prevent COVID-19 transmission, especially during flood events;
- Not having quarantine facilities, with home isolation the only available option;
- Three quarters (75 per cent) of management committees not fully functional, mainly due to lack of resources in personnel and budget;
- Most committees have not been able to consider COVID-19 in disaster management plans due to lack of knowledge and guidance on how to do so, including on distancing and transmission prevention means in an evacuation scenario.
The report’s co-author, Zakia Naznin, Programme Manager, Flood Resilience Project, Char Programme, from Concern Worldwide says:
“While it is not possible to prevent floods and storms, it is possible to limit the damage they cause to vulnerable communities, to help prevent loss of life and livelihoods, damage to property and essential services such as hospitals and schools.”
We’re calling for wealthy countries and donors to help assist the authorities in Bangladesh support the most vulnerable people, as they grapple with the compound risks of floods and storms resulting from the monsoon rains, as well as Coronavirus.”
Subinoy Dutta, Program and Advocacy Manager, Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance, Mercy Corps in Bangladesh said:
“Bangladesh is a country that is very vulnerable to hazards like storms and flood impacts, which are exacerbated by climate change shocks like rising sea levels. Now, at the start of this monsoon season, it has to grapple with the Coronavirus crisis. Our research shows that a lot of people, especially the poor, are unable to earn income in sectors that require them to leave the house to make a living. For them, there is no work from home option.”