Worst floods in years ‘submerge’ Bangladesh villages 2019
During the past weeks, Bangladesh has been experiencing the consequences of the worst flooding in 100 years which rapidly displaced hundreds of thousands of people. Millions of people are still at risk from the lack of food, clean water, shelter, hygienic facilities, telecommunication, electricity, and usable roads along with the threat of waterborne diseases. Many villages have been cut off completely, marooned and inundated by water. Hundreds of thousands have had major damage to their homes or lost them completely in the flood waters. Thousands of schools have been damaged or re-purposed to shelter flood victims.
I first headed to the flood affected area of Kurigram where all the villages were under water within three days of flooding and had lost all communication. By the time I reached Gaibandha, the sun was setting. I was surviving in a boat and could not see any ground surface upon which to stand even for a short while. That evening, along with the drowning sun, this village was also drowning under water. People were sheltered above water on the roofs of their formerly intact houses. The moaning of old people and the crying of children were making the atmosphere morose. When I reached the house of Afroza begum I shut my eyes. It took two years to rebuild the house of Khadeza after she sold all her cattle as well as taking out huge loans. I was standing in front of her ruined home; a house which had been rebuilt during the last two years. I could not reply to her anguish while she was hitting me and asking me why I came to take photos and why no one is helping them. No one came to ask them ever how they are managing to fight against the will of nature. She cursed all those happy people who sat silently and motionless in their homes after hearing the villagers’ tragic news.
I was on the scene in four rural areas for 5 days last week trying to assist people and working. I was in an almost completely underwater village where people had been trying to live on very limited high ground above the water for the previous 12 days. They were placing themselves along the roads and on whatever they could find to stay above the flood water. They were suffering like deserted prisoners in a devastated water kingdom. Their helpless shouts were not getting into the ears of the rest of the people in the surrounding area, nor into the ears of the rest of the country, nor into those ears around the world.
In all the places I went to, there was flood water but not a single drop of clean drinking water. Even my team and I were facing problems to find clean drinking water and food. Inhabitants were collecting water after walking kilometer after kilometer in waist-deep flood water or by boat because all water tube wells were under water and badly affected by the polluted flood water.
Sajeda Begum said, “I am 55 years old but in all my lifetime I have never experienced this kind of devastating flood!” After facing this catastrophic flood this year they are still fighting to stay alive.
After encountering the ravages caused by the force of nature and the bravery of these suffering villagers whose lives were now underwater, I realized that these people, involuntarily separated from the rest of the country, are stronger than most people and could rule over their own lives when necessary. If these courageous people could get even the support of a shoulder of the more fortunate amongst us to cry on, the rest of us could at least claim to be ‘Human’. If they receive some aid from disaster relief entities, it is only then that our society could claim to be a part of ‘Humanity’.
Faruk Bepari told me, “Nobody gives us even a single glass of water, not even a small packet of salt. Our children are sick and hungry. Our house went under water; we have been living on part of this elevated road for the last 5 days. We have no one; only God knows what is waiting for us.”
Last week, while a village was still in shock from the frenzy of the floods and still wading in deep water, my team and I managed to cook food for 500 flood victims. It was one of the most difficult challenges anyone organising without any infrastructure, to cook for a large number of victims in the worse flood devastated conditions that one could imagine. Everything had to be done on the only surface left above water in that village which was the roof of the village school. It was very difficult to cook and distribute the food because there was no dry place to gather all 500 people. It seemed to be an insurmountable and an almost impossible challenge, but we did it. Everything is possible when we do it from our soul.
I listened to the tragic stories of the misery to which the people have been subjected, some of which I am telling you here along with some photographs and a video. The reality of the impact of this disaster on these people will certainly melt your heart.
Dear friends, my team and I managed to cook food for 500 flood victims. It was one of the most difficult challenges anyone organising or cooking could imagine. Everything had to be done on this single school roof, the only surface left above water. It was very difficult to distribute the food because there was no dry place to gather all 500 people. So it was almost impossible work. But we did it. Everything is possible if we do it from our soul.
Please keep these people and me in your prayers.
Photojournalist & writer, received over 100 international Awards, speaker at TEDxPorto and TEDxHyderabad.
"I see the beauty of people and the human soul in the pictures I take. And though the circumstances of some of the people I portray may be grim, back-breaking, depraved, the people themselves are always remarkable characters and souls"
For me Photography is my language, to access, to communicate, to identify and mostly to make it hear. Through photography I only jot down my heart’s language. The best part about being a photographer is that I’m able to articulate the experiences of the voiceless and to bring their identities to the forefront which gives meaning and purpose to my own life.
I have received more than 68 international awards and my work has been featured in over 70 major, international publications including: National Geographic, Vogue,Time, Sunday Times, Newsweek, Geo, Stern, Der Spiegel, The Fader, Brand Ein, The Guardian, Marie Claire, Colors, The Economist, The New Internationalist, Kontinente, Amnesty Journal, Courier International, PDN, Die Zeit, Days Japan, Hello, and Sunday Telegraph of London. In 2002 I became the first Bangladeshi to be selected for the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass in the Netherlands. In 2004 I received the Young Reporters Award from the Scope Photo Festival in Paris — once again, the first Bangladeshi to receive this honour. In 2005 I was awarded “Best of Show” at the Center for Fine Art Photography’s international competition in Colorado, USA. And in 2006 I was awarded World Press Photo award and released my premier book “First Light”. In 2007 I became the first Bangladeshi to be selected for the 30 Emerging Photographers (PDN 30), sponsored by Photo District News Magazine, USA. I won the 7th Vevey International Photography Grant from Switzerland in 2009 and in the same year, I took home the international ‘Travel photographer of the Year” title at the International Travel Photographer of the Year Competition (TPOY 2009) in the UK, the most prestigious award in travel photography. I was one of the speakers in the fifth Global Investigative Journalism Conference, held at Lillehammer, Norway in 2008 and as well I was the first Bangladeshi in Ted talk at TEDxOporto 2011, in Portugal. I was one of the speaker of “7th Forum of Emerging Leaders in Asian Journalism”, Yogyakarta / Indonesia”. In 2011 Nikon has selected me as one of the 8 influencers in Asia pacific (APAC region). Presentation of my 10 years project published as form of book ‘Survivors’ in 2012, which has reviewed by prestigious Geo magazine.