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How floods affect women and men differently in north and north-eastern Bangladesh

Govt. Bangladesh
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The third wave of flash floods in June 2022 devastated the north-eastern part of Bangladesh, especially Sylhet and Sunamganj districts. According to the Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre (FFWC), approximately 94 per cent of Sunamganj and over 84 per cent of Sylhet are submerged. The Divisional Health Director, Himangshu Lal Roy, reported on 21 June that a total of 22 people had died in Sylhet Division since 15 June (Dhaka Tribune). Of the 7.2 million people affected in seven districts, 50 per cent are women and girls (3.6 million); and 107,399 are people with disability. Northern districts have also been inundated with floods and floodwaters continue to rise. Of the 3.7 million people affected in 11 districts in the northern region, 1.9 million are women and girls.

Sunamganj District has been completely disconnected from the rest of the country. Damage to mobile network towers has interrupted communication access to Sylhet and Sunamganj Districts, and electricity has been cut off.
Many markets and local shops were flooded which disrupted market functionality and the supply chain of essential commodities in Sylhet and Sunamganj Districts. Health facilities at the Upazila level, Upazila Health Complex, Community Clinic, and Union Health and Family Welfare Centre are impacted significantly due to the flood.

According to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, 340,632 individuals have been evacuated to 947 centres in Sylhet and Sunamganj Districts till 21St June. And 80 per cent of evacuated individuals are women, adolescent girls, older people and children. However, the evacuation centres/ flood shelters are not equipped with the required provisions to ensure the safety and security of women, girls and children. All highrise buildings, particularly in towns / pourashavas are being used as temporary shelters without adequate safety and security measures. Survey data from May 2022 found that 36.2 per cent of respondents in Sylhet District and 41.5 per cent in Sunamganj District view GBV as a potential cause of mental distress among the affected population.

Though 140 medical teams are providing treatment in affected areas, it is difficult to address the need for safe delivery and other reproductive health services due to the unavailability of health workers, midwives and birth attendants.

60 per cent of women, who depend mostly on day labour and tending livestock for their livelihoods, lost their income, while 40 per cent of affected women experienced damaged cooking utensils. There is no food stock in most affected households, and they are taking ½ meal a day if they get dry food as a relief. But food relief is not sufficient to cover all affected households. The flooding has caused a serious reduction in nutritious food intake among women and children whose health condition is already a serious concern.

Flood shelters typically do not have separate room facilities for women and men, including water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities, and they lack sufficient lighting. According to NAWG, women in in Sunamganj and Sylhet Districts (57.3 per cent and 61.9 per cent respectively) experienced physical suffering/difficulty in maintaining personal and menstrual hygiene.

Broadly the findings of the analysis suggest taking the following immediate actions: mitigate GBV and protection risks for the most vulnerable groups; ensure food security and provide financial support for targeted vulnerable groups; and provide lifesaving essential services, such as sexual and reproductive health care and WASH facilities.