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Children in Bangladesh save for disaster

Children in Bangladesh save money in savings pots that can be used during the flooding period or when disasters strike. PHOTO: Plan staff
Children in Bangladesh save money in savings pots that can be used during the flooding period or when disasters strike.

PHOTO: Plan staff
August 12, 2010

The collective power of children's voices is being felt in Uttar Parulia, one of six villages lying in a disaster-prone area of northern Bangladesh.

Not only do children and their families suffer the impact of regular flooding in the region's vast river delta, many homes are affected by a quarter of land disappearing due to the effects of river bank erosion.

Children are urging their families and communities to do more to avert the risk of disaster from flooding and the loss of land. Children are playing a key role in focus group discussions initiated by Plan and POPI, a local implementing partner, with funding from the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Department.

"Children felt that their parents did not fully consider the impact of flooding. They also felt that community members have a responsibility to prepare for a disaster and that by working together, risks in their village can be reduced," explains Farid Islam, area coordinator of Plan's Children's Participation in Disaster Risk Reduction project.

The first part of this risk reduction process is to carry out Community Risk Assessments among children in focus groups from village communities. Existing children's groups have been taught how to conduct their own research in order to discover the risks and resources available in their communities.

"As a result children took the decision to work with their parents to prepare their household for the coming monsoon period when flooding is most common. Children have good local knowledge about what to do when flooding strikes, however, very few households put this into practice," adds Farid.

"It's common for their parents to only prepare when flooding is imminent, by which time it's usually too late. Children also highlighted that their parents never saved money for such emergencies, leaving their families facing even greater hardship than before."

Children have taken action by starting up their own household savings program. Farid continues: "With their own money the children have bought their own savings pot. Whenever they can, they try and save a little money and put this in their very own savings pot.

"Over a period of time this little bit of money might just be enough for their family to buy a few punds of rice when it is really needed, particularly in the flooding period. They can also use the money for school fees, pens and books, limiting the effects of disasters on their education."

The project also recognizes that children with disabilities also have an equally important role to play: Fourteen-year-old Sheuli Khatun, who was born with a spine deformity, which limits her mobility, is an active member of her local children's group. "She feels very proud to be included and realizes that she too plays an important role in her community," says Farid.

More action is being taken by children to encourage their parents and communities to prepare for any disaster. This includes plans to make portable stoves, store up fire wood and food to ensure it remains dry, and other practical measures such as cultivating vegetable patches on raised ground.

"These initiatives show that not only can children play an important role in disaster risk reduction, but that also these small steps strengthen the resilience of communities to the effects of climate change," says Farid.

Learn more about Plan's Disaster Risk Reduction programs.