There was a freak snow storm in the Sahara last week, the surreal images creating a flurry on the internet. On the other side, Sydney is experiencing the hottest summer on record. At home, a severe cold wave is sweeping over northern Bangladesh.
Almost each day these days, I wake up and make my way to the makeshift camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf in Cox’s Bazar, the site of the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis of recent times. Life in these settlements is brutal- I see the struggles of the women, men and children who have recently arrived, most exhausted and traumatised.
Deep inside the chaotic makeshift settlements of Kutupalong, Cox’s Bazar, is a spacious, shaded, colourful place. A bamboo structure with handmade decorations hanging from the walls. Curious onlookers gather outside the thatched windows, attracted by the rhythm.
Over 582,000 people from the Rakhine State of Myanmar have crossed into Bangladesh since August 25th. They are living in extremely cramped, extremely unhygienic conditions, and more people are arriving every day.
A boy and a girl tussle over a bowl. It looks similar to one he lost in the crowd, and he needs one if he wants to get the food that is being served. The girl too realises that she will have to starve for the day if she lets the bowl go. She holds on with all her strength and cries out in frustration, and eventually walks away, clutching it tightly in her small arms.
Cox’s Bazar is the world’s longest sea beach, and littered with holidaymakers and colourful beach umbrellas throughout the year. Less than an hour’s drive from the string of shiny hotels, however now lies a mega city of black tarp tents.
On a quiet Wednesday afternoon in early August, Dhaka’s Tejgaon fire station got a call from Beltola, a crowded part of Korail slum. An electric wire was sparking and nearby houses were starting to catch on fire.
An estimated 507,000 people are now living on the border of Bangladesh and Myanmar, and more than half of them are children. Most of them have arrived with zero possessions, apart from the clothes they wore while making the long and dangerous journey.
Nine-year-old Amin plays with a rhino and a horse in a land of make believe. It has been a week since he arrived in Bangladesh with his family. Their route took them through the sea for two days and across deep valleys and thick jungle for another three days.
From the congested, waterlogged streets of Dhaka to flooded farmlands across the country, Bangladesh has enough problems right here. What is the point in looking to the sky when all it brings is rain? Why on earth are we trying to get to space?
Flooding is not a new phenomenon, and yet it continues to be treated with surprise. Almost one fifth of our country goes underwater every year. The geography and topography of Bangladesh means that we will always be prone to flooding, and the situation will only worsen with climate change.