Bangladesh is extremely vulnerable to natural disasters including floods, cyclones, landslides, droughts and earthquakes. Humanitarian experts fear its increasing population and hasty urbanisation will only intensify the consequences of disasters.
In an event that plays out almost every year, heavy monsoon rains in 2012 destroyed homes and crops in several parts of Bangladesh. The districts of Chittagong, Bandarban, Cox's Bazaar, Jamalpur, Kurigram, Gaibandha were most affected. The rains forced people to seek refuge in temporary shelters where many still require food assistance. Most flood-affected families, farmers notably, also need help to earn a living: standing water has made it impossible to till the land.
For over three decades, the Rohingyas from Myanmar – a separate religious and linguistic ethnic group – have sought refuge in Bangladesh. Often unregistered, they live in temporary camps and require basic humanitarian assistance. Most children are malnourished.
The World Food Programme assessments have revealed worrying levels of food insecurity in the Chittagong Hills Tract area in eastern Bangladesh caused by the past conflict, land scarcity and an invasion of rodents. The situation is forcing people to resort to extreme coping mechanisms like skipping meals.
During its several years of presence in Bangladesh, the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO) has been swift in releasing funds for natural disasters. It has provided support to Rohingya refugees for the past four years despite difficulties in reaching them with assistance.
In 2012, the Commission gave €19.65 million in humanitarian funding to Bangladesh. A significant part of this amount went to provide flood-affected families with food, shelter, drinking water, sanitation facilities and support to resume agricultural and other income-generating activities.
Over € 3 million were allocated for food, healthcare, water and sanitation facilities and nutrition support to Rohingya refugees living in Leda and Kutupalong makeshift camps, whereas over € 2,4 million helped families in Chittagong Hills Tract with food assistance.
Increasingly, ECHO is funding community-based disaster preparedness programmes. It supports initiatives like building flood-resistant infrastructure and early warning systems, among several others. Its contribution to this end exceeds € 9 million since 2001.