Long before Hurricane Harvey blasted Texas with catastrophic flooding, Bangladesh, India and Nepal have been experiencing a monsoon gone wild. In Bangladesh, the Jamuna River has risen higher than in 1988, the year of the deadliest flood they have seen up to this point. The death toll across the region has hit 1200, and the rain continues to pour down with a vengeance. A couple weeks ago, one of the Pebble staff told me that 30% of the country was under water. Today it’s closer to two-thirds of the country.
Throughout the region,including India and Nepal, some hospitals are filling with water. Clean drinking water is a scarcity. 18,000 schools have closed, affecting 1.8 million children. For those that remain open, children must sometimes walk in water more than waist deep. Homes have been damaged or swept away by mudslides. Farmland, which is the source of life for countless families, is underwater, some washed away to never return. Crops gone. Lives are lost. Necessities vanished. For the many day laborers, providing for their family is impossible. 32 out of the 64 districts in Bangladesh are affected and 335 shelters have been set up, housing more than 106,000 people. Most of Pebble’s production centers are in the southern part of the country and they have fared well. The center in the north that Austin visited this summer, suffered from sudden flooding. While the situation is better now, the flood left behind various illnesses which local organizations are helping to address.
Our hearts break for Texas, but there is also room in our hearts to weep for Bangladesh, India and Nepal? Imagine if half of the United States was under water. Imagine the news coverage and the rescue operations and charities that would shine through. You see this spirit at work in Texas right now. Yet this disaster is going down right now in a country that has only been a country for 46 years. A country that is constantly dealing with flooding, cyclones, and other disasters. A country that has made it onto the list of the 50 poorest countries in the world. A country that has the land mass of Iowa, filled with 163 million people. People who embrace life and welcome the stranger. Who love to share tea and curry and a hearty discussion. Who held my babies when they were little and taught me to speak a new language and to cook with color and spice. A people whose strength and resilience inspire me daily.
For more details and poignant images, visit here and here. To raise your voice in protest of the lack of coverage of the disaster in SE Asia compared to Texas, visit here. There is an email address there that you can use to join the conversation. There is also a very interesting conversation here on similarities and differences in the two floods.