Space For Rent

Space For Rent
Saturday, September 19, 2015, Aswin 4, 1422 BS, Zilhaj 4, 1436 Hijr

Poor children in urban areas at risk of disaster
Saifunnahar Sumi
Published :Saturday, 19 September, 2015,  Time : 12:00 AM  View Count : 15
Razib, a 15-year old boy, lives in a slum at Bouniyabad in Mirpur in the capital with his mother and a sister. His father was a driver and died three years ago in a road accident. Razib's mother is too sick to work, so he has to work in a cotton factory to support his family in the slum. Razib and his sister, who is 13 years old, went to a primary school when their father was alive.
Now, Razib has to struggle on a daily basis to manage two square meals for the family.  Their slum, including the cotton factory, recently went under water due to water logging. The family went without food for two days after Razib was laid off in the factory.
"On a given day, I get up early in the morning and go to the cotton factory where I work very hard. But on a rainy day things become difficult due to water-logging which inundates our factory and forces it to shut down. It is as always 'no work no pay.' I'm very scared about it," Razib lamented.
Children (girls and boys) who live on the streets or in the low-income informal settlements are among the most vulnerable and susceptible to environmental hazards and disasters because of their poor quality of living and working environments.
The recent water logging in Dhaka exposed children to environmental hazard (food, water-borne illness, epidemic diseases, burns, fire, building collapse) and in worse cases natural hazards (earthquake, cyclone, tsunami, flood, heat waves) for the urban children.
The lack of protective infrastructures and often threat of eviction serve as a disincentive for household, NGOs and other agencies to invest in risk reduction measures including infrastructure, said Dr Tawhidul Islam of the Department of Geography and Environment of Jahangirnagar University, who is doing research on urban disaster issues.  
"Eviction may limit children's ability to resume school in a new location and can force them into the labour market or onto the street," he said.
The children spend on an average, one to two weeks every monsoon season in overcrowded emergency shelter (at their schools) to escape rising water level.
Lack of solid waste management and drains allow garbage to collect in pools of stagnant water and can breed disease-spreading rodents and overcrowded environment enable transmission of infectious diseases, particularly among malnourished children. 
The current urban population in Dhaka stands at 15.4 million and poverty and inequality remain extremely high. The areas where the most disadvantaged poor people live are generally prone to water logging and flood related disasters, said Syed Monirul Ahsan, Senior Manager of Save the Children, Bangladesh.
The majority of disaster risk reduction programmes in urban areas of Asia is dominated by preparedness, early warning and response and fails to address the particular risk facing boys and girls.
 Children's ideas should be included in formulation of urban disaster risk reduction action approaches and actions including risk communication and awareness raising, school safety and education, environmental protection, structural solutions and governance, Dr Tawhidul Islam suggested.
Dhaka South City Corporation Mayor Syed Khokon said, "Dhaka WASA is mainly responsible for water logging in the city, but we coordinate with them, hopefully, we can solve the problem very soon." 
"After my joining, I have talked with the concerned departments to take seriously the street and working children's issue," Syed Khokon said. 

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
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