Rivers of Hope

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.

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  • 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

11 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Avatar
    Vicki Small September 12, 2008

    Dionna, if your child in Haiti was directly affected by the flooding, Compassion will let you know. How much time that might take could depend on how soon the country office gets the information and is able to pass it along.

    Meanwhile, all of them need our continued prayer support.

  2. Avatar
    Juli Jarvis September 12, 2008

    Dianna–It takes a while for Compassion to figure out these things. It’s been my experience that they notify me as soon as they know anything — also, sometimes they are able to list the affected projects on the website.

  3. Avatar
    Dionna September 12, 2008

    My sponsored child is in Haiti and I have heard no word on her. Am hoping she is okay and I don’t know if she was affected by the floods or not.

  4. Avatar
    Juli Jarvis September 9, 2008

    You all are such an inspiration to me! Thanks so much for your comments and similar posts!

  5. Avatar
    Lisa Miles September 9, 2008

    Thanks so much to Stevi and everyone for your comments. I knew there would be people here who could speak to these issues firsthand.

    Thanks for linking to Juli’s “Neighbors in Crisis” thread, too — Juli, you are amazing — what a great post on the issue!!! And, Vicki, I’m so glad that the work everyone is doing is inspiring others to get involved. I know that you work tirelessly on behalf of Compassion and children — I know that everyone here does — what a blessing that is!

    I think of how many years these crises were just a headline in a newspaper for me — how I glossed over what was happening to so many people.

    I’m glad that is no longer the case. It’s harder to know the details sometimes — but without that knowledge, I’m not sure how urgently I would feel the need to help. I thank God for waking me up to the world!

  6. Avatar
    Vicki Small September 8, 2008

    P.S. The links I provided to here and to Juli’s post prompted another blogger-friend and sponsor to do a post on her own blog about Compassion and child sponsorship. So the ripples go out….

  7. Avatar
    Vicki Small September 8, 2008

    Lisa, thanks so much for the research and effort that you put into this post, and all of them that you write. My most recent post on my own blog links my readers to this post and to Juli’s; great work, both of you!

  8. Avatar
    compassion dave September 8, 2008

    Thanx Lisa.

    Juli did pen an excellent thread that relates well to these words here:


  9. Avatar
    Brittany September 8, 2008

    I used to live in Florida…the worst we had was a few days without power and water (but were able to stock up on water before the storm hit…). This is a great reminder that even when we think we have it “bad,” we really don’t.

  10. Avatar
    Juli Jarvis September 7, 2008

    Thank you Lisa. I have visited Haiti and the Dominican Republic, but not during flood stages. I posted a comparison of housing on my blog yesterday though — just to get an idea of what it might be like to sit out a storm in one of these poverty-stricken areas. Thank you so much for this excellent discussion of the crisis. I know that when Hurricane Georges hit Haiti years ago, I heard from Compassion immediately that my child was in the worst-hit area of all. Then it was a few weeks before they were able to confirm that he was OK, and months before I got a letter from him. He said, “Hurricane Georges took our home and everything we owned…” and then proceeded to thank God and tell me about his school and project as if nothing had happened. His father is a Pastor that walks 4 hours to his church every Saturday and back again Sunday after services. Special family; I sponsor the younger brother now.

  11. Avatar
    Stevi September 7, 2008

    I go to Honduras every year on mission trips, and have seen first-hand how the devastation of hurricanes can be long-lasting and crippling to a developing country. Honduras was affected greatly by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, and ten years later, has yet to fully recover. Roads and bridges that were certain areas’ lifelines to other parts of the country were destroyed and never rebuilt, leaving those areas completely isolated. Families that lost homes moved into “temporary” shanty towns, where they are still living and struggling to eke out a living ten years later. It’s incredible to hear about families that had been living a normal middle class life, and are now living in homes made of cardboard and metal bits, just trying to make it every day. So hurricane season is a tough thing for people in Honduras. Torrential rains can bring life to a standstill, keeping people from work, keeping children from school, and causing damage to homes that are barely standing to begin with.

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