In northern Bangladesh, some of the poorest families live on chars – river islands that are vulnerable to floods and other natural disasters. Life for char-dwellers is extremely precarious and many do not have access to even the most basic water and sanitation facilities, leaving them at risk of deadly diseases.
The Madarganj and Sarishabari upazilas (sub-districts) of Jamalpur are particularly vulnerable to flooding and river erosion. Most of the population depend on farming and fishing for survival, while some work as day labourers. Access to safe drinking water is limited, hygiene levels are poor, episodes of diarrhoea are frequent and waterborne diseases like hepatitis E are widespread.
Alema Begum, aged 42, lives on a char in Tertapara village with her husband and two children in Balijuri union, Madarganj – an area particularly prone to flooding. Alema’s husband, Abdul Aziz, works as a day labourer and the family cannot afford to install a water point in their home.
“My mother and I had to fetch water from my neighbour’s house every day,” said Alema, recalling how she would have to collect water at least four times a day. “It was very hard for us, especially in the rainy season and during the month of Ramadan.”
In 2014, a Waqf-funded project helped increase access to safe water, improve hygiene standards and halt the spread of disease in the area. Islamic Relief Waqf installed 200 flood-proof tube wells which are raised high above the flood-level to allow access to safe, clean drinking water, even during the monsoon season.
Practical hygiene awareness session were also held for 2,000 locals on the importance of hand-washing and good hygiene, maintaining clean environments, drinking only clean arsenic-free water and keeping safe during disasters. Maintenance training and tools were also provided to 400 people selected as caretakers of the new wells, ensuring long-term sustainability.
When Islamic Relief Waqf installed a tube well in Alema’s home it not only provided her family with clean, safe water but also her neighbours who, as part of the agreement, have free access to the water point.
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