The article was first published in NEWAGE Bangladesh. Click here to read the original publication.

Once Anjuman Ara had a happy life with her parents in Shukherchar area under Hatiya upazila in Noakhali but the mighty Meghna River devoured their homestead forcing them to be displaced.

Losing their home due to erosion of the Meghna River in 2008, Anjuman’s family took shelter on an embankment at Borodeill village of Hatiya Island. Later, she got married with a youth named Kalam Miah.

Within couple of years of their marriage, they were blessed with a daughter and a son. But, failing to bear family expenses amid extreme poverty, Kalam went out of home leaving his family behind and never returned.

Since then, grass-widow Anjuman had been suffering a lot in running her three-member family, but the UNDP’s Integrating Community-Based Adaptation into Afforestation and Reforestation Programme gave her a hope to start a new life overcoming her struggle against poverty.

‘Under the project, I got a small pond on a 10-year lease and was imparted with training on fish farming and vegetable cultivation,’ she said.

Following the Fish-Fruit-Forest model introduced by UNDP with support from Bangladesh Forest Department, Anjuman said, she farmed fish on pond and cultivated vegetables and plant trees on embankments of the pond, which paved a way to earn money for her family. ‘And my two children started going to school too as my family income increased,’ she added.

But, at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, she had fallen in an untold suffering as Anjuman had no income. She could not sell her vegetables and fish due to countrywide lockdown. She fell in the vicious circle of poverty again, as she did not have enough money to buy rice or essential commodities.

‘At that time, nobody stood by us to help us cope with the crisis. But I received Taka 1,500 cash support from UNDP through Bkash, thanks to the UN agency’ Anjuman said.

She said: ‘Cyclone Amphan emerged as a double blow for us amid the coronavirus pandemic as the cyclone destroyed our crops and washed away the fish of our pond. But the cash support helped us address the crisis.’

Like Anjuman, over 4,500 families of the country’s eight most climate vulnerable upazilas got Taka 1,500 as one-time cash assistance through digital money transfer so that they can address their plight amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Monpura upazila nirbahi officer Bipol Chandra Das said: ‘We were pleased seeing that UNDP was very active at field level amid this disastrous situation. As the marginal people were enormously aware of COVID-19 by the UNDP’s innovation works, they have been playing a vital role in preventing coronavirus.’

Since 2017, the ICBAAR project has been providing various support for the coastal climate vulnerable people so that they could be able to cope with the climate change impacts, said Mahmud Hasan, the national project director and additional secretary of the Environment, Forest and Climate Change Ministry.

By preparing a list of old-aged, divorcees, widows and workless people, he said, financial assistance was provided to more than 4,500 households of eight upazilas of five most climate vulnerable districts to help them address their economic crisis created due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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