Bangladesh's Hungry Feel Heat Of Climate Change

For Samya Begum, hunger is never far away. She lives in a part of Bangladesh that is prone to flooding and a heavy monsoon can be the difference between having food and not having it. She is an example of why climate is a hunger issue and why climate change will produce more hunger.

GAIBANDAH – Every monsoon season, Samya is on edge, wondering when the flood will come and whether there will be a warning. If there’s a warning, she and her family can collect a few basic items from their bamboo hut and move to higher ground. If not, they abandon everything and flee.

Samya smiling and holding her babyThis year the family got off quite lightly. Flooding in Samya’s village on the Jamuna River in northwestern Bangladesh was mild and did little lasting damage. But she knows it won’t always be like that.

"It won’t be long before my home is flooded and we have to move again," says the 23-year-old mother patiently, as she fries up WFP wheat flour for her disabled husband and their two children.

Precarious existence

Many families in Samya’s community have to flee their homes every year. The precariousness of this existence is one reason why it is so hard to escape poverty and vulnerability to hunger.

In an effort to help Samya build a better future, WFP and the Bangladesh government have included her on the joint Vulnerable Group Development programme. The programme – currently threatened by funding shortfalls -- provides monthly rations of wheat flour in addition to “life skills” and entrepreneurship training.

"I want to get out of poverty and my dream is to be a goat and cow herder," says Samya, who is now doing small-scale poultry farming as a way of trying to achieve some ‘food security’.

The VGD programme is aimed at the most marginalised women in Bangladesh – people who feel the effects of climate change on their own skin.

Poorest suffer

Bangladesh is one of the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world and 83% of WFP beneficiaries live in disaster-prone areas. In an 'average' year, approximately one quarter of the country is inundated by water.  Once every four years, there is severe flooding, which may cover more than 60% of the country and cause loss of life and major damage to infrastructure, agriculture and livelihoods.

During severe floods, it is the poorest and most vulnerable who suffer most because their houses are often in more exposed locations.

WFP has been working for many years, not only to support climate-vulnerable populations with food assistance, but also to help them adapt to climate change. They can do this by raising their homesteads on plinths and building protective embankments and roads to keep them linked to markets. WFP is also involved in training on how to survive during increasingly frequent natural disasters.