United Methodist Committee on Relief

Life changing support for Bangladeshi flood survivors

By Bella Simonetti*

BANGLADESH – Guljan lives alone. Her husband died 20 years ago, and her only living children are married and live far away. Last year’s monsoon season caused excessive damage to her home, but she couldn’t afford to repair it. She was able to survive off a small stipend from the local government to buy some food and medicine.

After learning about Guljan’s situation, Muslim Aid United Kingdom, a regional partner of the United Methodist Committee on Relief, gave her a cash grant and a hygiene kit.

“I received BDT 4,000 (almost $50 USD) and a kit when I was disappointed and unhappy in my life,” said Guljan while grinning ear to ear. “After receiving this help, I bought food items and medicine. Now, I am rearing ducks for poultry.” 

UCG and Hygiene kit Distribution Bangladesh - Jan.JPGBangladeshi flood survivors receive hygiene kits and cash grants from Muslim Aid and UMCOR. PHOTO COURTESY OF MUSLIM AID UNITED KINGDOM

Reaching the most vulnerable

Bangladesh is situated on the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta, the world’s largest river delta. Its geophysical location makes it susceptible to disasters. Heavy rainfall is common during the monsoon season in South Asia, last year’s excessive rains caused weeks of deadly flooding. Those living in Bangladesh’s poor communities were further marginalized. Some residents, like Guljan, were more vulnerable than others.

UMCOR supported Muslim Aid in distributing cash grants and hygiene kits to those in most need during 2017’s deadly monsoon season. This included people like Guljan, Abdur, and Khatun. 

The monsoon rains damaged Abdur’s fishing boat and nets. Unable to work, he couldn’t afford to buy food leaving Abdur and his wife, Khatun, suffering from hunger until a neighbor told them about Muslim Aid.

The couple shared their story with Muslim Aid officers. Because of their assessed and confirmed needs, they were included in the project. A cash grant was provided to purchase new fishing nets, a new fishing boat, and much-needed food. Abdur is now earning a regular income by fishing and ferrying people across the local wetland.

“This lifesaving support has changed our lives,” Khatun told Muslim Aid officers.

UCG and Hygiene kit Distribution Bangladesh Jan.JPGMuslim Aid officers meet with beneficiaries to distribute cash grants and hygiene kits to those in most need. PHOTO COURTESY OF MUSLIM AID UNITED KINGDOM

From disaster to recovery 

UMCOR partners with Muslim Aid to provide humanitarian relief in places where there is no Methodist Church connection. Muslim Aid and UMCOR have partnered together to reach the most vulnerable for 11 years. 

In January 2018, UMCOR and Global Ministries staff members met with Muslim Aid senior officers in the United Kingdom. They discussed ways to further build on their partnership and strengthen their interfaith work.

On April 12, 2018, UMCOR board members approved an additional grant of $500,000 to Muslim Aid to assist other flood-affected communities in Bangladesh. 

“This is the first intentional follow-up grant from International Disaster Response,” said Laurie Felder, UMCOR interim director for International Disaster Relief. “We have done multiple relief grants in this region of Bangladesh. This recovery grant will be implemented as a follow-up to a previous relief project to better facilitate vulnerable people moving from disaster to relief, and finally to recovery.”

The grant will provide:

• 500 households with cash grants for shelter support.
• 1,000 households with livelihood support.
• 1,500 households with food security.
• 500 households with solar lights.
• 120 rehabilitated community water points.
• 5,000 households vulnerable to flooding with WASH education.

Additional support from UMCOR allows Muslim Aid to continue to strengthen flood-affected communities. Together, UMCOR and Muslim Aid are supporting resiliency in recovery for people like Guljan, Abdur, and Khatun. 

During post-distribution monitoring, Muslim Aid officers said they saw Guljan in the community. Full of happiness, she expressed her thanks to Muslim Aid for the humanitarian assistance. Monsoon season will come again, but for now, Guljan and her ducks enjoy living a normal life.   

*By Bella Simonetti is a communication specialist for Global Ministries.