In Northwestern Bangladesh
Geography & Climate
- Located in South Asia, Bangladesh is in the low-lying Ganges-Brahmaputra River Delta.
- Bangladesh has a tropical monsoon climate characterized by heavy seasonal rainfall, high temperatures and high humidity.
- The alluvial soil found throughout the country is highly fertile, but also vulnerable to cycles of flood and drought.
- Natural disasters such as floods and tornadoes ravage the country each year.
- Bangladesh is widely recognized as one of the countries most susceptible to the adverse effects of climate change.
- The northwestern region is a large plains area, known for long periods of drought.
With widespread fertile soil, agriculture plays a crucial role in Bangladesh’s economy, with principal crops including rice, tea, wheat and sugarcane.
Nearly half of the country’s population is employed in the agriculture sector. Given the frequency of natural disasters and volatile weather patterns, those who rely on farming for their livelihood are highly vulnerable.
Forty percent of the population is underemployed. Many people counted as employed work only a few hours a week and at low wages.
Because of the prevalence of drought in the northwestern region, farmlands are often overcultivated in attempt to quickly produce cash crops.
In the northwestern region, families earn an average of only U.S.$1 a day.
Some families supplement their earnings through cottage industries such as weaving.
Children at Home
Children in Bangladesh’s northwestern region grow up in crowded homes of six or more people. Homes are usually no larger than 10 feet by 8 feet, with cowsheds often attached.
Few houses have running water, and most use crude latrines made of bamboo. Water is often collected from a community well several miles away.
Issues and Concerns
People of the Santal tribe, the predominant tribe of the region, once owned vast plots of land in northwestern Bangladesh. But neighboring tribes took advantage of their lack of education and gradually took over the land, leaving the Santals with no property.
Today, most of the Santal people do not own land, instead working as day laborers, earning little money.
Because there is little access to safe water in the dry northwestern region, families must walk miles to get water from community wells or dirty streams.
Few families have sanitary latrines at home, leading to the spread of disease.
Santal people tend to have large families, with the average mother giving birth to six children. Many families are headed by single mothers, who are either widowed or abandoned by their husbands.
The Santal tribe is also known for making chuani, a homemade alcohol. Because of this, alcoholism is prevalent in this region, often leading to violence and unemployment.
Local Needs and Challenges
Children in northwestern Bangladesh’s remote villages have many urgent issues, including malnutrition and lack of medical care.
Clean water & sanitation
The consumption of contaminated water and poor sanitation leads to many illnesses that can be life threatening to young people.
Because parents can't afford the required fees, many children do not attend school. Those who attend typically drop out after fifth grade. With low education levels, most Santal people cannot read or write.
Schools and Education
- Lack of education is a primary cause of the Santal tribe’s poverty. More than 80 percent of Santal adults can’t read or write.
- Most families cannot afford to send their children to school. Most children spend their days working in the fields.
At the Compassion Child Development Center
In partnership with local worship centers, Compassion is bringing help and hope to impoverished children in northwestern Bangladesh.
To ensure physical development, children are provided regular, nutritious meals at their Compassion centers.
Boys and girls also receive regular health checkups, and their medical needs are covered.
Assisted children in remote areas are provided bicycles, along with required tuition, uniforms and supplies, to enable them to attend school. They also receive extra tutoring to help them excel in their studies. As a result, illiteracy rates have dropped noticeably throughout this region.
For parents, monthly meetings are conducted by center staff to emphasize the need for good hygiene and sanitation practices in the home.
Parents are also taught about the importance of their children’s education as well as the negative consequences of child labor and abuse.
What Compassion Sponsorship Provides
In partnership with local partners, Compassion is bringing help and hope to impoverished children in northwestern Bangladesh, providing them with:
- regular nutritious meals and snacks
- health checkups and medical care as needed
- the support needed to attend school
- educational assistance
- access to special services like surgeries and disaster relief
- mentoring to help children discover their incredible value as God’s children