As you read this post, keep in mind what Haiti has recently experienced: Tropical Storm Fay, Hurricane Gustav and Tropical Storm Hanna. Plus, Hurricane Ike is bringing more misery to the island as it moves past Haiti this weekend.
Government officials have declared a state of emergency and appealed to the international community for help because of the devastation the first three storms have wreaked.
And there are still two months left in the 2008 hurricane season.
I thought I saw devastation and despair in this year’s Iowa floods. And I did. But it got me thinking, “What is life like for a Compassion child living in a country affected by regular flooding?”
Have you ever considered how a child in a developing nation is affected by a natural disaster?
Let me tell you a little bit about flooding in one of our Compassion countries — Bangladesh.
- Thirty to seventy percent of the country floods each year due to monsoon rains and tropical storms. (1)
- The number one cause of death of children in Bangladesh is drowning. During heavy flooding, parents tie small children to rooftops with ropes or chains to keep them from slipping into the water while they go in search of food and aid. (2) (3)
- Farmers can easily lose an entire year’s income in a single flood. Two-thirds of Bangladeshis rely directly or indirectly on rice farming for their living. When there are no rice crops, there is no living. (4) (5)
- Families facing starvation often turn to money lenders called Mohajon for loans. The families are charged interest rates of up to 200 percent per year. When they cannot repay the loan, they lose the remainder of their possessions or are forced to work for free. Some families sell their children in exchange for food or money. (6) (7)
- Floodwater mixes with sewage that seeps out of latrines or sewers. With no other potable water, families have no choice but to use this water for drinking and boiling vegetables. Children in particular are vulnerable to diarrhea, respiratory diseases, typhoid and scabies. Children who are fortunate enough to be taken to a clinic may recover only to be sent back to the same conditions. Most don’t recover at all. (8) (9)
As a Compassion sponsor, I see a multitude of ways that a Compassion child development center could step in and save a family during such a crisis. Each center is a literal safety net for a child in times of flooding.
And think of what a family gift from a sponsor can do!
A Bangladeshi family could invest in flood-resistant rice, floating gardens, flood-resistant housing – all recent innovations denied to Bangladeshis living in poverty. A generous family gift could make a life-changing, life-saving purchase possible.
If you are thinking of sponsoring another child, (and I hope you are!), please take a look at the children of Bangladesh or other countries that face flooding each and every year.
Also, I would SO appreciate comments from those of you who have been to countries where flooding regularly occurs (e.g., Haiti, Mexico, Indonesia, Honduras and of course, Bangladesh) and seen the aftermath firsthand.
Perhaps you took a sponsor tour and can speak to the work Compassion is doing. Or perhaps you have sponsored children who have shared their experiences with you.
You are the mouthpiece for these people. Please speak up and tell us what you know.
How many disasters occur each year that we never hear about — that fly under our radar here in the U.S.?
Help educate us.
(1) Action Aid Bangladesh Factfile. Retrieved July 27, 2008 from http://www.actionaid.org/main.aspx?PageID=641
(2) Bangladesh: Drowning leading cause of death among children. (2007, October 1). IRIN News. Retrieved July 27, 2008, from http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?Reportid=74571
(3) Symonds, P. (1998, September 15). Floods threaten 20 million lives in Bangladesh. World Socialist Web Site. Retrieved July 27, 2008, from http://www.wsws.org/news/1998/sep1998/bang-s15.shtml
(4) National Center for Atmospheric Research. (2007, August 8). Forecasting system provides flood warnings to vulnerable residents of Bangladesh. Science Daily. Retrieved July 27, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070802182007.htm
(5) Bangladesh says new flood-resistant rice offers hope to farmers. (2007, September 15). Agence France-Presse. Retrieved July 27, 2008 from, http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5i_vzlfrgWtUm7IDrReb7cD67YPow
(6) Hossain, M. & Stevens, E. (1998). Lessons Learned from the 1998 Bangladesh Floods. Retrieved July 27, 2008 from http://www.ennonline.net/fex/11/fa19.html
(7) Sangupta, S. (2002, April 29) Child Traffickers Prey on Bangladesh. New York Times. Retrieved July 27, 2008, from http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C01E1D61E3EF93AA15757C0A9649C8B63
(8) Sudworth, J. (2007, August 9). Disease stalks Bangladesh flood victims. BBC News. Retrieved July 27, 2008 from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6939150.stm
(9) Millions of Bangladeshi children at risk as floods erode sanitation. (2004, July 29). UN News Centre. Retrieved July 27, 2008 from http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=11492&Cr=bangladesh&Cr1=floods