The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the Ambassadors of the Kingdoms of the Netherlands and Norway this week reviewed programmes aimed at improving resilience to natural disasters and agreed that Bangladesh needed more support in this key area.
Worldwide, Bangladesh is recognized as the country most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, and frequent natural calamities are among the main threats to food security and nutrition.
On a five-day visit from Rome, WFP Assistant Executive Director for Partnership s Elisabeth Rasmusson joined Her Excellency Merete Lundemo, Ambassador of Norway, and His Excellency Gerben de Jong, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, as well as officials from the Government of Bangladesh, WFP and partner NGOs in a tour of northern Bangladesh.
“Resilience against natural disasters starts with resilience at the family level – people need the knowledge and resources to cope with shocks, and the infrastructure to help reduce them,” said Ms. Rasmusson. “WFP works closely with partners in the Government as well as national and international NGOs to help families protect their homes and fields, but more donor support is urgently needed to enable us to reach more communities.”
“The capacity for resilience is essential for sustained human existence. Any development effort has to strengthen this capacity, because there will always be disasters, which we need to overcome,” said Ambassador de Jong.
“The Netherlands is therefore happy to support WFP’s assistance to the Government of Bangladesh in this area because of its direct impact on the lives of many poor and vulnerable households through tackling both the physical and socio-economic challenges to resilience.”
The Kingdom of the Netherlands is one of the main donors to the Enhancing Resilience to Natural Disasters and the Effects of Climate Change programme, implemented jointly by the Government of Bangladesh and WFP. A Dutch contribution of more than US$3 million enabled WFP to support 7,000 people and their families with food and cash for work and training as well as cash grants in 2013. In total, WFP engages 80,000 ultra-poor rural women and men in cash and food for work and training to increase their resilience to future disasters.
“WFP and the government of Bangladesh work really well together to build resilience and promote development,” said Ambassador Lundemo. “The projects that I have visited with Assistant Executive Director Rasmusson this week clearly demonstrate how vital nutrition is to progress in these important areas.”
The Enhancing Resilience programme brings local government representatives, NGOs and communities together to identify and realise food/cash for work projects such as repair and reinforcement of embankments or excavation of drainage and irrigation canals. The Local Government Engineering Department provides technical oversight of the projects at the upazila level.
Throughout the rainy season, villagers take part in training sessions to enhance their knowledge, attitudes and practices on disaster preparedness and response, hygiene, sanitation and nutrition. In exchange for their time and labour, all programme participants receive a nutritious food ration from WFP and the equivalent in cash from the Government of Bangladesh over a period of two years. In a third programme year, WFP works with women from households who participated in food/cash for work in order to further strengthen their families’ resilience to future shocks. The women learn about business development and entrepreneurship, identify activities that match their skills and local demand, and develop a business plan. They then receive a cash grant to invest, and a monthly allowance to help support their families while they focus on making their businesses successful.