Bangladesh is considered one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change and rising sea levels. The rising seawater erodes river banks and floods the land, poisoning crops and fishing areas. Annual tropical storms and cyclones hit the south of Bangladesh, whilst the northern part of the country suffers from annual droughts. These annual climatic changes cause great displacement of people and loss of life.
Bangladesh is also the world’s eighth most densely populated country with 160 million people living in an area the size of Illinois. Three-quarters of the Bangladeshi population live in rural areas; due to the weather disasters, though, each year an increasing number of people are forced to abandon their rural homes and move to the more densely populated urban areas. People forced to flee their homes due to changes in climate are known as climate migrants. The infrastructure of the cities is unable to support these climate migrants in providing adequate housing, sanitation and employment opportunities. Most climate migrants find themselves living in slums where access to vital services including healthcare facilities is extremely poor.
Our team have compiled statistical data to help you understand the extent of the humanitarian crisis in Bangladesh today.
The World Bank has predicted that by 2050, over 30 million people will become climate migrants in Bangladesh. Natural disasters caused by climate change is forcing millions of Bangladeshis to abandon their homes in search of job opportunities in the cities. The rapid increase in urbanisation has caused poverty levels to increase. With little planning and support, people migrating from rural areas into cities face new and even more dangerous risks as tension and conflict increase due to scarce resources.
The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre has indicated that on average 700,000 Bangladeshis are displaced each year, losing their village homes and livelihood. Bangladeshis are forced to leave their homes, families and friends and move to cities in pursuit of employment and survival.
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) 2016 statistical data, agriculture makes up 42% of the total employment in Bangladesh. However, destructive weather events linked to climate change, have caused millions of farmers and fisherman to lose their primary source of livelihood and income. Farmers and fisherman are forced to leave their homes in rural areas and move to urban areas in search of a new livelihood.
The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund research (UNICEF) indicates that there are currently 5,000 slums in Bangladesh where approximately 4 million people live. Those living in slums are often faced with further displacements as slums are often located in fragile, low lying areas of the cities they surround. Bangladeshis living in these slums are also vulnerable to a constant threat of eviction. Further to this, the slums lack basic infrastructure and access to vital services putting even more people at risk.
The 2013 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey indicated that 75% of slum-dwelling families in Bangladesh live in just one room. Living in such overcrowded conditions offering little space and privacy causes stress and despair. Individuals and families struggle to settle in such densely populated living spaces and, as such, levels of domestic violence and use of alcohol and drugs is very high.
UNICEF data has illustrated that 100,000 Bangladeshi children do not attend school. Most of these children are working in child labour or looking after infant siblings whilst their parents work. Poverty accounts for most children not attending school as the school fees are unaffordable. These children lose a vital opportunity to break the cycle of poverty by lacking access to quality education, which is every child’s basic human right.
UNICEF research indicates only 1 in 2 boys and 1 in 3 girls complete their primary education. They drop out of school due to the provision of low-quality education accompanied by harsh punishment. Inadequate infrastructure, under-qualified teachers, poverty and malnutrition play an important role in children not completing their education.
According to UNICEF, 1 million Bangladeshi children are child labourers, as poverty has forced every member of the household to work. Instead of attending school and enjoying childhood, children are entering the labour market. Many boys work in unhealthy conditions in factories and girls as housemaids, but both earn a very low wage. These children are often subjected to abuse, physical punishment, violence and sexual harassment.
UNICEF research has identified that only 34.6% of Bangladeshis have access to safe clean drinking water and, currently, 19.4 million people are drinking water with arsenic levels above the national health standards. A third of the households in Bangladesh drink water from sources with very high counts of disease-causing bacteria and viruses. The drinking sources are often contaminated during recurring disasters such as floods, landslides and cyclones. Lack of access to safe drinking water has a significant impact on the mortality rate, health, nutrition and education outcomes for Bangladeshi people, including children.
According to the Global Hunger Index (GHI), Bangladesh is suffering from a serious level of hunger. 15.2% of the population of Bangladesh is undernourished; this means that they do not have enough food to eat. For many Bangladeshi parents, it is a constant daily struggle to balance the high costs of living and low levels of income with finding food to feed their children.
According to UNICEF data, 1 in 5 Bengali girls are malnourished with essential nutrients missing from their bodies. This is especially important when we consider Bangladesh to have the highest teenage pregnancy rate due to the common practice of teenage marriages.
Bangladesh has the lowest marital age of girls in the world, and it holds the world record of the greatest number of girls married at the age of 6 years. The GHI has documented that 31% of the girls in Bangladesh have already given birth before the age of 19 years. This, coupled with malnourishment and low levels of literacy, results in greater risk of early pregnancy and greater negative health impact. Many married girls suffer physical and sexual abuse at the hands of their husbands and extended families.
UNICEF has documented that over 5,000 Bangladeshi mothers die during childbirth at home, without any access to a skilled midwife or a doctor. In order to have healthy children and maintain her health, UNICEF has stated that the pregnant mother must visit the doctor 4 times during the pregnancy and 4 times after the childbirth. These deaths could be avoided if women received adequate medical assistance during their pregnancy and childbirth.
Many Bangladeshi mothers have very little access to maternity services and vital health checks during their pregnancy. According to UNICEF, only 1 in 3 pregnant mothers receive essential healthcare during their pregnancy. Lack of access to life-saving healthcare checks increases the risk of complications and death for the mother and the newborn.
Bangladesh has the world’s highest death rate of newborn babies. According to UNICEF, half of these babies die on the day they are born and the rest die within the first month of their lives. Many of these deaths occur due to complications during childbirth and poor maternal health. Vital healthcare services and health workers are needed to save these babies from death.
Early pregnancy and poor nutritional level of pregnant mothers lead to low infant birth weight, and according to UNICEF, 13.2% of all babies in Bangladesh have low birth weight. Low birth weight significantly reduces the chances of infant survival and development because they are more prone to disease and impaired mental and physical growth. Twice as many infant deaths occur where the mother is very young. These deaths could be avoided if pregnant mothers have access to healthcare checks and healthcare professionals during and after their pregnancies.
Muslim Aid is supporting mothers and babies in Bangladesh, but we need your support in saving innocent lives by providing pregnant women, mothers and babies basic primary healthcare.
Donate today to the Bangladesh Mother and Baby Clinic appeal to help provide nutritional feeds, incubators, medicine, and fully equipped ambulances to save the lives of mothers and their babies in Bangladesh.
Just £60 will provide a family food pack for a mother and baby
Just £120 will provide lifesaving medicine and nutritional feed
Just £250 will provide emergency surgery during labour
Just £1,200 will provide a baby incubator
Just £1,500 will provide a share in an ambulance
Just £15,000 will provide a fully equipped ambulance
Don’t hesitate in donating today; your support is vital in saving the lives of mothers and babies in Bangladesh.