Global warming is real, and I believe there is no other way of going around this fact.
While climate change impacts are being felt all over the world, Bangladesh stands as the most vulnerable in the long run. Excessive dependence on fossil fuels and the threat of rising sea levels are more than just worrisome – melting ice caps in the Himalayas result in greater number of destructive floods in a region that’s already prone to life-threatening floods. Last month, Bangladesh, Nepal and some parts of India suffered one of the most horrible floods in the history of their existence. Food shortage and vector diseases are undoubtedly some of the greatest concerns for calculating the devastation left behind by the ravaging waves. It is, however, high time we start discussing impacts which go beyond the physical realms of devastation and are more humanely intimate and personal.
Over 7 million deaths ever year tributes our fossil fetish, yet the unnerved and unmoved remain to be silent, indifferent and in some cases, in denial. Statistically, global consumption of petroleum and natural gas are currently uncontrollable, after setting new records back in 2015. While the Paris agreement may have brought pledges from a lot of countries for stark decreases, the process seems way too complicated and long-term oriented. Meanwhile, the most climate change vulnerable countries continue to bear the brunt. Even with the committed 2 (degrees) C temperature rise, we are set to face extreme weather conditions four to five times more than the 2000s.
Over 7 million deaths ever year tributes our fossil fetish, yet the unnerved and unmoved remain to be silent, indifferent and in some cases, in denial.
To understand this, you and I should be aware of the countless UN Women reports which account for less nutrition intake within the women diasporas in rural areas. The reason is simple: Women are mostly believed to be primary care givers of the family, and the common problem lies within fixed gender roles set by society where women are expected to sacrifice their health to feed their husbands, fathers and children. While everyone is equally impacted during floods, tsunamis and flash floods from hurricanes, the problem exacerbates post-disaster.
When food is already scarce and the next relief truck is almost two days away, women, as young as 10 to 50 year old, sacrifice their health and nutrition to feed their families so others can sustain better. For instance, women in the rural areas of Africa have to travel at least 10 miles on average to fetch water for themselves and their families. This means, there is less energy and resistance to cope with any vector or aqua diseases, like malaria or cholera. We can easily misunderstand by assuming the naivety in women for sacrificing when it isn’t necessary. However, appropriate attention needs to be paid to the evil super structures placed in society which forcefully insinuate a mother, a daughter or a wife’s responsibility to eat less and save more for the family. This kind of pressure leverages greater misuse of power by men in the family.
When food is already scarce and the next relief truck is almost two days away, women, as young as 10 to 50 year old, sacrifice their health and nutrition to feed their families so others can sustain better.
In times of crisis, Government mechanisms are supposed to take care of the most vulnerable. While you and I can point out the most vulnerable in this situation, no effort is actually given to take care of women post-disasters specifically. Therefore, attempts to correct this misconception are rather non-existent.
What multiplies this mess is a general lack of understanding of the uniqueness of female suffering post-disaster or in crisis. More often than not, reproductive health care is overlooked to a point where experiencing period bleeding is ridiculed and reprimanded with greater physical labor which women can’t escape from. Relief efforts in most cases will not distribute reproductive health kits. Furthermore, available doctors are mostly male, who suffering women are uncomfortable to confide to. There are many NGOs working to create a monolithic rule of providing extra care to women during efforts of restoration. However, such efforts mostly fall apart due to rush and haste in managing rescue operations and relief distribution.
There is a general lack of understanding when it comes to the uniqueness of female suffering post-disaster or in crisis.
With all this in mind, I believe it is important to rethink strategies post extreme weather incidents. While climate adaptation efforts are going great for Bangladesh, how we approach restoration and alleviation of human health suffering from frequently-occurring climate change impacts requires attention. Erum Burki, who is a Technical Director at Save The Children, identified natural disasters and emergency situations as an opportunity to spread awareness about family planning and sexual health among people who often don’t have the right access to such knowledge due to their geographical location. This means, there should be a more robust operational structure of identifying the most vulnerable actor in any crisis.
Effort to establish absolute equal access to nutrition is a must that all parties involved in distributing food and clothing should take care of. Plus, greater emphasis should be provided to anti-discrimination campaigns as a reinforcing measure to tackle this disparity. More importantly, health kits should start including reproductive health care for women, like sanitary napkins and painkillers for better and more comfortable living. These should be provided exclusively by female personnel who can also assist in directing female health care questions to available doctors on site.
While climate adaptation efforts are going great for Bangladesh, how we approach restoration and alleviating human health suffering from frequently-occurring climate change impacts requires attention.
However, the most important ambition to create a healthier environment post-emergency situation should start from a more efficient and institutionalized effort to mitigate various health impacts. In this regard, Bangladesh should take ownership of any emergency call and act through small projects initiated by NGOs and non-NGOs that are willing to work in disaster areas.
It will take a concise and collective effort to mitigate health impacts stemming from climate change. But it will take a lot more to cut down on segregated impact which specifically targets, jeopardizes and weakens women and makes them a tool of furthering oppression. With so much to fight for in their lives, fighting impacts of climate change should, for all reasons, be the least of their worries.