Cold Wave Hits the Chars: the CLP Responds with Emergency Support
Bangladesh is rightly perceived by the rest of the world as a hot country. For most of the year, the delta is baked by the tropical sun. From April to October the mercury rarely dips below 30°.
Surprisingly, however, temperatures plummet in the winter, especially in the cooler North of the country where the CLP works. During December temperatures on the chars can fall as low as 8 degrees during the so called ‘cold-wave’, which lasts for a number of weeks. It is very hard for vulnerable people on the chars to cope with these temperatures, which can pose a serious risk to their survival.
Shohor Banu is an elderly woman living on the chars, close to the northern border with India. She lives in extremely difficult circumstances. People on the chars are rarely able to access government safety nets in their old age, and Sorhor Banu has neither family to support her nor any savings. She therefore survives by moving from house to house to beg for food and money.
The cold wave presents a different type of vulnerability; in a country which is usually ferociously hot, she struggles to keep warm. “It’s cold enough that I need a fire to warm me up in the morning and evening”, she says. “So I went to many people to ask for warm clothes, but nobody would give them to me.”
These are serious circumstances, and they require a response. The CLP therefore distributes warm blankets to extreme poor households in the chars every year, just before the cold wave hits the country in December. This year 19,000 blankets were distributed in just three days. The programme distributes these blankets to the 17,000 participants who have recently joined the programme, plus a variety of other vulnerable people.
The CLP tries to respond to the circumstances faced by its participants. It aims to be a comprehensive programme which reduces the vulnerabilities of people in the chars. Its support therefore includes measures like blanket distribution, community safety nets, emergency grants and sometimes emergency flood response.
Though this support is not permanent it is designed to protect participants from shocks such as illness, fire and flooding. Shocks could undo years of progress on the part of households on the chars, presenting a major setback which drives people back into extreme poverty.
Sohor Banu is in an extremely vulnerable position. Though it doesn’t end her struggle the provision of a warm blanket is a valuable piece of support. “The blanket will help me to survive in this winter. I will pray for those who gave me this blanket”.