CAFOD in Bangladesh

A relatively new country, formed in 1971 when it gained its independence from Pakistan, low-lying Bangladesh is in south Asia.

Bordering India and Burma, the country is at the head of the Bay of Bengal, and more than 10,000 square kilometres are permanently covered in water.

Frequently hit by cyclones and floods, it is feared that if the sea level rises by one metre in this century, 15 per cent of the land in Bangladesh will be underwater.

With a population of larger than Russia, despite being 120 times smaller, millions of Bangladeshis could be forced to leave their homes.

The economy has grown rapidly in recent years due to a booming garment industry in the towns and cities. But despite this the majority of people in rural areas still live in extreme poverty.

Southern Bangladesh was recently hit by two cyclones in quick succession. Many villages were devastated, but local communities recovered well putting plans in place to prepare for future disasters. Despite this, many people are still living in an extremely vulnerable position should a major disaster hit again.

CAFOD started working in Bangladesh in 1986 when we supported their Catholic partner, Caritas Bangladesh, to help families start kitchen gardens to improve their nutrition and earn an income.

They have also helped women to start their own businesses and provided vital emergency relief to communities devastated by repeated cyclones and floods, including Cyclone Sidr in 2007 and Cyclone Aila in 2009.

CAFOD have been working with partners to help people find ways to be more resilient when disaster strikes. They work with several local organisations, particularly in the southern Mongla region, helping people to find alternative ways to earn an income and raising awareness about the changing climate and how to prepare for future disasters.

They are also working with disabled people, helping them to fight for their rights and gain access to emergency relief and government services and provide nutritional advice and spiritual counselling to people affected by HIV and AIDS.

CAFOD focuses on two key areas of support

1. Earning an income – helping people to adapt to their changing climate by enabling them to set up businesses that will thrive in the local conditions, make a good profit and be more able to cope when disaster strikes

2. Responding to emergencies – providing vital relief when disaster strikes, raising awareness and putting systems in place that help people be more prepared for natural disasters.