Disaster Management Reference Handbook (2020) - Bangladesh

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Executive Summary

Bangladesh has been affected by more than 200 natural disasters over the last three decades. The country’s geographical location next to the Bay of Bengal, low-lying terrain, monsoons, and significant rivers render the country very vulnerable to natural hazards. From 1970-2019, storms have been the most frequent disaster to affect Bangladesh at 52%, followed by floods at 31%, with the remaining disasters being epidemics, earthquakes, droughts, and landslides.7 In addition, Bangladesh is one of the countries in the world most at risk from the negative impacts of climate change including increases in incidence and intensity of extreme weather events and hazards such as soil salinization, rising sea levels and riverbank erosion.8

Bangladesh has many sources of vulnerability including earthquakes and flooding. Traffic in Dhaka is among the most congested in the world. An earthquake heavily affecting the capital is among the more challenging disaster scenarios.9 In addition, the flood damage potential is increasing due to climate change, urbanization, growth of settlements in flood-prone areas and overreliance on flood control works such as levees and reservoirs.10 Growing urbanization is driven partly by migration and has contributed to straining the use of limited land, environment, and fragile infrastructure. Migration toward urban areas is in turn driven partially by climate change exacerbating flooding of formerly inhabited land around river delta areas. These emerging risks present major challenges to the continued human development, poverty reduction and economic growth of the country, and to the lives, livelihoods, and health of its people.11

The poorest, most marginalized and vulnerable communities are hardest hit by disasters as they are repeatedly exposed to natural hazards without the means to recover well. Despite these challenges, Bangladesh has made major gains in improving socioeconomic conditions in recent years with positive economic trends, accelerating growth, and improving the indicators of social progress. The country reached lower middle-income country status in 2015 and at the same time had achieved significant progress in the Millennium Development Goals. Bangladesh has a growing asset base and is more connected to global markets; however, the national economy is at risk from disaster events, climate stresses, and the large amount of gross domestic product (GDP) which is lost each year due to these events. As a result, managing disasters and their impact has been a major area of focus for the country as well as its partners.12

Bangladesh has made significant progress in disaster preparedness and mitigation in the last several decades, reducing the death toll during tropical cyclones from hundreds of thousands down to just hundreds of people.13 For example, in November 2019, Cyclone Bulbul smashed into Bangladesh. Early warning systems and government preparedness programs facilitated the evacuation of approximately 2 million people before the cyclone made landfall, saving numerous lives.14

Disaster Management in Bangladesh is guided by a number of national drivers including plans, policies, and orders. The National DM plans (NPDMs) look at the risks and consequences of disasters and community involvement and integration of structural and non-structural measures. The Disaster Management (DM) Policy (2015) places importance on financial resources for DM activities at all levels. The DM Act 2012 endorses the Standing Orders on Disaster (SOD) and provides a legal basis. The Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief (MoDMR) has the responsibility for coordinating national DM efforts and the National Disaster Management Council (NDMC) is the supreme body for providing overall direction, which is translated in the National Plan for Disaster Management (NPDM 2016-2020).15

Recently, Bangladesh has been affected by the COVID-19 global pandemic. The first case of COVID-19 in Bangladesh was detected on 8 March 2020. The challenges in Bangladesh are compounded by human densities of megacities and Cox’s Bazar, and a weak health system already at risk.16 Bangladesh’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) is working with the Armed Forces Division (AFD), UN Bodies, International, National & Local NGOs to deliver coordinated assistance.17

UN Bangladesh developed the HCTT Contingency Plan 2020 for Climate-Related Disasters in the COVID-19 Pandemic Context which looks at the risks of cyclone, floods, and landslides in Bangladesh in the context of COVID-19. The HCTT Contingency plan anticipates needs analysis and includes specific pre-agreed upon thresholds which need to be met which would signify that a coordinated response from the humanitarian community would be automatically activated.18 In addition, a draft Humanitarian Preparedness and Response Plan (HPRP) for Climate-related Disasters in 2020, was developed based on the above referenced HCTT’s contingency plan.19