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Humanitarian Coordination and Collaboration in Bangladesh (12 July 2020)

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UN RC Bangladesh
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Over the years, Bangladesh played an increasingly influential role at both regional and international levels on disaster management policy, climate change and DRR and, it contributed to shape related policies and international commitments. The country is also keen to pilot innovative approaches to continuously improve its systems in order to save lives and livelihoods. Besides being a member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Bangladesh hosts the secretariat of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and it chairs the Climate Vulnerable Forum and the V20 for the next two years.

Since OCHA’s Humanitarian Advisory Team (HAT) closed its operations in Bangladesh in 2015, the Resident Coordinator Office (RCO) with the financial support of UKAid facilitates the coordination of humanitarian affairs in the country. The overall objective of that support is to facilitate the coordinated and constructive engagement of stakeholders in support of the Government of Bangladesh (GoB)’s leadership role on humanitarian preparedness and response efforts as well as on DRR for resilience. The Cluster system adopted by the GoB strengthens national authorities’ leadership and capacities to deliver on their sectoral humanitarian and DRR interventions.

Overall Context of Bangladesh

According to the INFORM Report 2019, Bangladesh is ranked 22 out of 191 countries with a high INFORM Index for Risk Management which indicates that the risk of humanitarian crisis and disasters that would overwhelm national response capacity is high. From 1970-2019, storms are the most frequent disaster to affect Bangladesh as depicted in the below figure 1.

A risk analysis was conducted by the Humanitarian Coordination Task Team (HCTT) in 2020. Cyclone, floods and landslides (including recent epidemics) were ranked according to their anticipated impact and likelihood. Multiplying these variables gave a value indicating the gravity — low, medium or high — of a given risk. The outcome of the risk analysis was a commonly agreed “Inter-Agency Country Risk Profile for Bangladesh” which remains a reference document remains a key reference for the HCTT today. Hazards are based on referenced with official data and statistics.

Bangladesh holds 165 million people in an area 147,570 km². For tens of thousands of years, people living in the vast Ganges Delta accepted a volatile, dangerous landscape of floods and tropical storms as the cost of access to rich agricultural soil and lucrative maritime trade routes. People learnt to cope with floods and learnt to face dangers and losses. Climate change is disrupting traditional rain patterns—droughts in some areas, unexpected deluges in others—and it is boosting silt-heavy runoff from glaciers in the Himalaya Mountains upstream, leading to an increase in flooding and an accelerated riverbank erosion. The sea-level rise is pushing saltwater into coastal agricultural areas and is promising to permanently submerge large swaths. According to the World Bank the climate change could lead to the internal displacement of 13.3 million Bangladeshi by 2050.

As people flee vulnerable coastal areas, most are arriving in urban slums—particularly in Dhaka, one of the world’s fastest-growing and most densely populated megacities. The city is perceived as the country’s bastion of economic opportunity, but it is also fraught with extreme poverty, public health hazards, human trafficking, and other risks, including its own vulnerability to floods. Already, up to 400,000 low-income migrants arrive in Dhaka every year.