Shahenoor Akther Urmi
There was a semi-narrow street by the busy road in the Chaktai area where the Bhera Market slum colonies were dotted with a few tin-shade homes separating them from the city life.
The slum just next to the Rajakhali canal in the port city and set up illegally on government land.
The slum comprises over 5,000 people with occupations such as daily wage labourers, rickshaw-pullers, garment workers, fishermen and a few shopkeepers. Women either work as housemaids or vegetable sellers in the local markets. Most of the people here are climate migrants from Hatiya, Bhola and Khulna.
There are more than 50 registered and unregistered slums in the city managed by Chattogram City Corporation and due to proper logistic and financial support, slum dwellers would not get basic support they required for living. We are not allowed to fish but we can sell them in the local market, said Ruma Akter, 37 who is a fish seller in a kitchen market in the area.
In a gap of two days, Ruma bought fish from the Fishery Ghat wholesale market and sold them in the local market, earning around Tk 200-500, she said, adding that her elder son, who is 16 years old, helps her in the business. Ruma is also a displaced woman who came from Hatiya and started living here for the last seven years.
Most of the women and children in the slum look skinny, malnourished and weak which is too visible to realize that they are struggling to earn their livelihood.
We have rice three times for meals with mashed potatoes or vegetables, Ruma said, adding that sometimes her family with four members had rotten fish which was left unsold from his business.
We had chicken meat once a month, otherwise we had the substance (chicken fins, liver and stomach) of chicken sometime, she added.
According to the United Nations, In Bangladesh around 33 percent of adolescent girls are anemic and micronutrient deficient and 25 percent of women ages around 15-44 are unhealthy thin for their height. About 48 percent of children are malnourished and 1.5 million of them die each year from diarrhea that both worsens and is worsened by malnutrition.
Over the last decade, on average each year 700,000 people were displaced and migrated to Dhaka and Chittagong, the two big cities in the country, due to natural disasters, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. The number is increasing rapidly in years with several cyclones. Though at present the reasons for displacement are sea-level rising, erosion, salinity intrusion and crop failures.
Malnutrition is one of the challenges the poor people are facing in our country. The Global Nutrition Report said the prevalence of overweight children under 5 years of age is 2.4% and Bangladesh has made no remarkable progress on it, but the scenario is completely different in the slum areas, said Prof. Dr. Nasir Uddin Mahmud, director of the Institution for Public Health Nutrition.
80 percent of women and children who are malnourished in the slum area and also unaware about their health condition nutritions, else they have no money for proper balanced foods, he added.
Nasir also said that the migrated people who took shelter in the different slums are the victims of malnourishment and anemia as most of them are day labour or vendors.
In the port city more than 50,000 people live on the slopes of hills with the great risk of landslides in the rainy season. They are still living in danger and during the monsoon the authority took them away from the place and sheltered at cyclone centers.
Government-formed a technical committee in 2008 and according to their report
around 15,000 people are living on the slopes or bottom of 12 hills that were identified as ‘Red Zones.’
According to the victims’ quote, lack of proper food, water and sanitation in the cyclone centers, they have gone back to their risky home and every year some people are going to die in landslides.
Mahmud Ullah Maruf, Additional Deputy Commissioner (general) of Chattogram District Administration said the management committee is preparing for the monsoon time and we will conduct a mobile court for eviction.
A World Bank report said within 2050 the number of displaced people by the varied impacts of climate change could reach 13.3 million in Bangladesh, making it the country’s number one driver of internal migration.
The Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief has an action plan for the climate migrants but has no pragmatic activity for implementation.
Lack of implementation of the action plan for climate migrants remains on paper rathan on activities, said M Shamsuddoha, Chief Executive of Center for Participatory Research and Development- CPRD Bangladesh.
People who are migrating to different cities are living in unhealthy and miserable conditions than their home place, he said, adding that the ‘reintegration’ project for the displaced people which had been taken by the government once also had no progress.
(The report was published as part of health fellowship programme organized by Bangladesh NGO’s Network for Radio & Communication- BNNRC)