Oxfam-funded rescue boats are kept in areas most at risk of flooding, and at flood shelters. Besides rescuing people, the boats collect houses, belongings and livestock, taking them to areas of safety. Credit: Jane Beesley/Oxfam
Oxfam helps people prepare for the yearly floods.

Bangladesh: Preparing for flood disaster

Following the disastrous 2004 floods, which affected 600,000 people and forced thousands from over 100 villages to be displaced, Oxfam has helped people prepare for the yearly floods in Bangladesh, which are exacerbated by climate change. Ten thousand hectares of crops and 700 million tons of fish stock were lost in 2004, making adaptation strategies crucial here.

Raised houses

Raising the ground above flood level helps protect people’s homes. Grasses and trees planted around this raised house prevent erosion. “We grow vegetables like pumpkins on the roof, and fruit trees like mango and jackfruit that can be eaten during or after the floods. These households did not go under water so this food remained available to the families living here,” says a Kodvanu resident, Bangladesh, 2004 floods.

Cluster villages

After the 2004 floods, several houses in a number of villages in Bangladesh were raised to avoid floods. Community leader, Mohammed Abu Ysef says, "Before this cluster village, life was very hard for people. Every year the area was flooded. Now we feel there's no monsoon because we don't face any of the problems."

Flood shelters

A flood shelter is a three to five acre area of raised ground (around 18 to 35 football pitches). People can bring their livestock, possessions, and even their homes, to the safety of a flood shelter. Flood shelters can accommodate 100-300 families. Facilities include a community room for those without shelter, tube-wells, latrines, a fishpond, and areas for vegetable cultivation and tree plantations.

 Gail Williams/Oxfam Clean water

Flooding can contaminate water supplies, leading to potentially fatal diseases. Oxfam works with villagers to maintain safe supplies of water. Here a villager from Hari, India is drawing water from a raised tube-well. The top of the pipe of some tube-wells can be quickly extended, so keeping it above the level of any floods.

Disaster preparedness committees

Oxfam support the set up and running of disaster preparedness committees which help people before, during, and after a flood. Hawa Parvin, the President of her village committee in Bangladesh, says, “Previously we just reacted. We’d work together, but now we plan before the flood happens. It’s meant that, for example, we didn’t have to leave here in 2004.”

Radios

Oxfam have given radios to the committees. Special broadcasts alert villagers and enable preparedness plans to be put into action. The Imam at Charatra, Shariatpur, Bangladesh says “When I hear the news on the radio I go straight to the mosque and make an announcement over the microphone. Everyone can hear at the same time and can put the agreed preparedness plan into action.”

Rescue boats

Oxfam-funded rescue boats are kept in areas most at risk of flooding, and at flood shelters. Besides rescuing people, the boats collect houses, belongings and livestock, taking them to areas of safety. Where roads are inaccessible, the boats are used to deliver relief; such as food, animal fodder, emergency shelter, and other essentials. In Bangladesh in 2004, the boats rescued over 1,000 people.

Other examples of communities adapting to climate change:

 Jane Beesley/Oxfam

 

Bolivia: Reviving ancient indigenous knowledge

 Geoff Sayer/Oxfam

 

Tanzania: Supporting the livelihood of Maasai pastoralists

 Caroline Irby/Oxfam

 

Raising southern voices: The Kilimanjaro Native Co-operative Union