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Bangladesh Appeal No. 01.53/2003

Publication date

(In CHF)
(In CHF)
1. Health and Care
2. Disaster Management
3. Humanitarian Values
4. Organizational Development
5. Federation Coordination
6. International Representation
1 USD 2,213,581 or EUR 2,194,223.
2 These are preliminary budget figures for 2004, and are subject to revision.


Bangladesh is often referred to as the most disaster prone country in the world. Exposed to the Bay of Bengal and crossed by extensive rivers draining neighbouring countries covering an area ten times larger than its own. The location renders the country extremely vulnerable to the impact of cyclones, tidal surges, tornadoes and floods. The tapestry of the nation's delta landscape is constantly changing. As the great meandering rivers annually consume around 9,000 hectares of fertile occupied land, severe erosion literally undermines the always precarious livelihoods of the people living along their collapsing banks. It is a phenomenon that directly affects the lives of an estimated one million people each year. Of these, 500,000 are rendered homeless and marginalized, rarely finding adequate and alternative shelter elsewhere. The majority drift into rural towns and the metropolitan cities, to swell the already overcrowded ranks of the homeless, unemployed and destitute.

With around 80 per cent of its 130 million people living in rural areas, Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world and one of the poorest. Relative poverty is the condition of the vast majority of the country's people, a situation that deteriorates to an absolute state for millions of families. Under-investment in essential educational and health infrastructure and services has contributed to widespread chronic ill health and malnutrition (particularly among women and children), while literacy and numeracy among the poor remains minimal. Poverty reduces and for many eliminates any real choices and it creates and reinforces a degree of vulnerability that exposes millions of families to high levels of risk. In the precarious ecological context of Bangladesh, it constitutes an enduring ingredient of a recipe for incipient disaster.

Such is the nature of the economic and social environment that has determined and informed the programmes that constitute the core of this Appeal. The programmes address a comprehensively analyzed need to improve and diversify the national society's structural capacity for effective response to the multiple humanitarian needs generated by natural and other disasters and to make a principled contribution to a wider national endeavour aimed at reducing community vulnerability generated by poverty. Accordingly, programmes designed to strengthen and extend the national society's human and material resource base (organizational capacity) are intrinsically linked to health care and disaster management initiatives intended to empower vulnerable communities to take a more extensive control over conditions and events that limit and threaten their lives. Recognizing a need for greater inclusiveness, their focus requires the national society to reach out across the social spectrum to embrace all classes of civil society in an enterprise of collective solidarity illuminated by the humanitarian values that inform and legitimize its mandate.

The Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) does not exist in a vacuum. Programmes outlined in the Appeal will, therefore, have many stakeholders and successful realization of their objectives will require mutual understanding and support among many players. The Appeal ascribes a harmonizing role and representational responsibility on the International Federation's delegation. This is required to generate and promote an environment of encouragement that will ensure information dissemination, knowledge sharing, advocacy and support, resulting in effective co-ordination among all stakeholders, both in the country and internationally.

Derived through a project planning process linked to priorities established in the national society's co-operation agreement strategy (CAS), this Appeal invites support for a range of programmes intended to ensure that the BDRCS is properly equipped to support vulnerable communities seeking to transcend the constraints that currently circumscribe their lives and is able to respond rapidly and effectively to the needs of the weakest members of the nation's family in times of their greatest distress.3

Country Strategy

The Bangladesh Red Crescent Society has played a pivotal role in every humanitarian emergency that has arisen in Bangladesh since the country's independence in 1972. The national society came into being at a time of conflict and disaster, when extensive relief needs arising from a devastating cyclone that killed 500,000 people in 1970 were exacerbated by massive humanitarian requirements generated during the civil war that attended the nation's birth. Later emergencies related to cyclones (1991 and 1994), extensive floods (1998) and regional tribal insurrection (1975-99) reinforced an imperative to reduce community vulnerability that has dominated development initiatives of the BDRCS throughout the succeeding three decades.

The national society's approach to vulnerability reduction has always linked strengthening of its organizational capacity to pro-active, constructive engagement with communities exposed to high levels of risk. Vulnerability reduction is a cross-sectoral theme central to all its development programmes, aiming to build community capacity to withstand and mitigate the impact of disaster being taken forward in association with interventions to improve community health and alleviate poverty. Its work in these fields supplement government provisions and, as in the case of cyclone preparedness, constitutes its leading component.

  • The Federation promoted and facilitated the creation of a cyclone preparedness programme (CPP) in 1972/3.4 Now a joint venture with the Government of Bangladesh, the CPP is an organic component of the nation's institutional early warning system. The consistent support of sister national societies, through the Federation, was crucial to its maintenance and extension. The programme is now firmly rooted in communities across the entire coastal region - with over 30,000 organized volunteers providing cyclone mitigation awareness and early warning, first aid, rescue and other support services in their own villages.

  • BDRCS Disaster management policy and practice of the BDRCS has evolved in response to significant events and circumstances. The value of volunteer engagement at community level demonstrated by the CPP from its outset is also exhibited in the community based disaster preparedness (CBDP) teams more recently established by 35 BDRCS branches located in districts frequently subjected to floods, tropical storms and the impact of river erosion. The initiative of the CBDP links awareness generation and skills training with mitigation interventions focused on community preparedness, first aid, public hygiene, access to safe drinking water and income generation.

  • With the support of sister societies, engagement by the BDRCS with primary health care has focused on the development of locally sustainable, community managed maternal and child health services and the extensive participation of young volunteers in national child immunization campaigns. The national society uses its highly justified reputation as a reliable source of safe blood to reinforce its advocacy of voluntary blood donation.

  • In collaboration with the Federation, the establishment, maintenance and accountable management of 'buffer stocks' of essential, non-perishable relief items reinforces the capacity of BDRCS for a rapid and an appropriate emergency response to the immediate needs of families rendered vulnerable by disaster.

In all these spheres, Bangladesh Red Crescent initiatives complement, and frequently lead, the efforts of the governmental departments and some NGOs. The long term presence of a Federation delegation staffed by experienced and competent delegates has promoted and facilitated external funding support, knowledge sharing and skills transfer and provided a consistent source of encouragement and solidarity between BDRCS staff and volunteers.

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