Dhaka Courier

Youth Poverty and Flood Blows in the Time of Pandemic

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Photo: UNB

Bangladesh is in the period of demographic dividend where 60% people are Young. As the youth are depriving in access material resources − income, nutrient food, proper education, health care, rights in khas land, forest, water bodies and employment; spiritual resources − thoughts on life, model of ideal person, mutual respect, aspiration, completeness of life; emotional resources − love, belief, justice, inclusion; their capacities, home-grown thoughts are not functioning for disaster management and environmental protection.

As we know that people who earn less than 67 taka per day or consume less than 2122 kilo calorie per day – can be poor. During the period of 1985-86, the poverty rate was 55.7%, and then the rate was 31.5% in 2010. Now 22% people live under the poverty line. But know food consumption and income is not real indicator to measure poverty. Beside the extreme and hardcore poverty, covid-19 induced income poverty, food poverty, jobless poverty, housing poverty, health poverty, child poverty, poverty of landless people, poverty of immobilize people, exterminate people; poverty of slum people, ecological poverty, insecurity induced poverty of mass people, poverty of haor, baor and marginal people are prevailing in our country.

In 2020, flooding has begun in Bangladesh. At the end of May, Amphan swept from beginning to end the country. Over 2.4 million people were evacuated to enduring and impermanent shelters before the cyclone hit, and over 200,000 houses were fully spoiled. Synchronization with local governments and health facilities is decisive for communities to seek advice on how to facilitate entrée to health services. All natural exhortations come as Bangladesh braces itself for mostly heavy rain, among fears that the increasing approach in water levels of major rivers might persist. Flooding hit several northern districts in late June after heavy rain in the country and river catchments in India. Jamalpur, Kurigram, and Gaibandha districts were the worst affected, with some flash flooding also reported in the Sylhet and Sunamganj districts.

Since then, flooding has been reported in several other districts. In line with a report by Network for Information, Response and Preparedness Activities on Disaster (NIRAPAD), a total of 1,012,775 people have been affected and 221,158 households marooned. The affected districts include Lalmonirhat, Kurigram, Gaibandha, Nilphamari, Rangpur, Sunamganj, Sirajganj, Bogura, Jamalpur, Sylhet, Tangail, Rajbari, and Madaripur. According to the forecast, the country will witness a second wave of floods from July 11, which will submerge 23 districts of the country. Districts expected to witness flooding are Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Rangpur, Nilphamari, Gaibandha, Sylhet, Sunamganj, Netrokona, Kishoreganj, Bogra, Sirajganj, Jamalpur, Tangail, Rajbari, Madaripur, Shariatpur, Chandpur, Munshiganj, Faridpur, Manikganj, Rajshahi, Natore, and Naogaon.

The flood situation may again worsen in the two northeastern districts of Sylhet and Sunamganj, with a break of just several days when the region witnessed short-term flood since last week of June, as the water levels of all major rivers in the upper Meghna basin started rising again because of the onrush of upstream water, together with heavy rainfall. World Bank predicts, 1 meter rise in the sea level will inundate 20% of its coastal region leaving 25 to 30 million people without home, without jobs. As per World Bank’s “South Asians Hotspot Published in September 2018” more than 3/4 quarters or 134 million out of 165 million population of Bangladesh or 82% are at risk of declining living standards as a result of erratic climate change, rising temperature could affect living standards in diverse way. The decline in living standards as a result of changes in average weather could cost a loss of 6.7% or 171 billion of Bangladesh’s GDP by 2050 unless actions are taken to reduce emissions and global annual average temperature increase. In fact, cost of inaction will be highest for the severely affected regions, amounting to 59 billion or 14.4% loss in GDP by 2050. If the current trend is not reversed, then nearly 800 million people of South Asia will be affected and if corrective actions are taken, then around 370 million would be affected.

Consequently, the youth generation cannot be an equal member of society due to lack of three resources, 1. Material resources: income, nutrient food, proper education, health care, rights in land, forest, water bodies and employment; 2. Spiritual resources: thoughts on life, model of ideal person, mutual respect, aspiration, completeness of life; 3. Emotional resources: love, belief, justice and inclusion. Corona virus has added a new dimension of youth poverty. If we estimate the real income, land ownership, ownership of black money and population dynamics, out of 16 cores people – 10 cores 55 lacs people are poor. If we consider price hike and low unemployment then the rate would be 83%. The situational imperatives of ‘youth poverty’ make them powerless, isolate, hopeless, helpless and weak. It is strapping of middle class, extreme and hardcore poor urban and rural youth to acclimatize with health shocks (covid-19, cancer, kidney damage, liver diseases) and natural shocks (river erosion, flood, cyclone and environmental crisis).

Time offers to ensure healthcare facilities, economic opportunity, social facilities, guarantee of transparency and protective security particularly for young generation. Otherwise, the total development process would be fear, uncertainty and doubt. We may employ home grown development philosophies –material incentive to marginal people, negative environmental externality; ensure proper distribution system, improving the mass people oriented health care system and ensure social safety nets.

As Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries in terms of climate vulnerability, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been taken actions to live with natural disasters. She adopted “Climate Change Strategies & Action Plan” as early as 2009. She also involved communities and created 6 thousands well trained volunteers and erected nearly 3,800 cyclone Shelters. Context demands to develop flood resistant salinity resilient crops, empower flood affected people, uphold covid-19 health services, pure potable water, proper sanitation to adopt with climate change and pandemic for social welfare. If we want to empower the young generation, the utilization strategies of fundamental resources – land, water bodies, forest and human resources is imperative for sustainable development. It is totally politico-economic decision to lessen health crises, poverty, distress, inequality, deprivation in the attention of young generation.

Shishir Reza, The Writer is an Environmental Analyst & Associate Member, Bangladesh Economic Association.

  • Time of Pandemic
  • Flood Blows
  • Youth Poverty

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