Monowara lives together with her husband Abdul Motin and their three-year-old son, Mamun, in a tiny hamlet in Khulna, one of the two districts of Bangladesh most affected by Cyclone Aila in 2009.
Before the cyclone, Motin and Monowara owned a small shop and a plot of land with vegetables and fruit trees. Motin ran the business, while Monowara took care of their chickens, ducks, geese and goats. Now, the family live in a shelter made of tarpaulins and the wood salvaged from their destroyed house.
Remembering the devastation caused by the cyclone, Motin says: “Just like that we had no house, no clothes, no food, no ducks, chickens and goats: nothing remained after Aila.”
Entrenched in poverty
Before the cyclone, 40 per cent of Bangladesh’s population were already living below the poverty line. The disaster caused Khulna District’s already fragile economy to collapse, leaving people unable to earn a living. Monowara says: “We have continued to receive 20kg of rice each month from the government, but with no income we are now trapped and reliant on this to feed us.”
Mamun, a previously a healthy child, is now very thin and often ill due to the lack of nutritious food. To make ends meet, Monowara has been forced to start work as a manual labourer. She says: “If I stopped, there would be no food in my house, no food for my child. With this thought, I leave our shelter each day to go through any pain of the work I thought I would never need to do.”
A way out
In October 2010, Bangladesh Red Crescent workers first visited the hamlet to assess the needs of residents. Monowara says: “That gave us hope for the first time: that something might get us out of this situation after all.”
The family have now been allocated land on which to build a new house and construction work has already begun. They have also received the first of three cash grants. The money is paid into a joint bank account, set up by the British Red Cross and the Bangladesh Red Crescent, in order to ensure Monowara and Motin’s shared ownership.
Talking excitedly about starting life in their new house, Monowara says: “I will give more time to the care of my little boy, Mamun. When rains come, Motin and I will grow vegetables in our plot of land. Around our house we will again plant fruit trees, like we had before Aila. The hope and confidence that we now live with has already changed our lives a little bit: now we laugh and poke fun at each other again.”
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