Home to nearly 160 million people, Bangladesh is among the most populous countries in the world with more than 1,000 people packed into every square kilometer. According to a World Bank study, the capital Dhaka is rapidly growing, drawing in an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 poor migrants every year to provide key labor for the city’s industries and services.
Bangladesh is also one of the poorest countries in the world. 4 out of every 10 people live below the national poverty line, according to government data on income, consumption and ability to meet basic human needs.
While the country is predominantly rural, the exponential growth in population and urbanization puts tremendous pressure on housing, sanitation, health, education and infrastructure. In addition Bangladesh relies on a relatively narrow range of resources and is subject to frequent natural disasters. Collectively efforts to relieve poverty face formidable challenges.
Situated on a low-lying delta, Bangladesh is subject to annual floods and cyclones which destroy lives and livelihoods, especially for the rural poor. Lacking access to land, poor families often have to live in vulnerable areas such as low-lying regions near rivers or coasts.
Dhaka is growing rapidly. One-third of the current residents live in slums and informal settlements. Demand for housing is already great; yet high land prices put housing out of the reach of low income families. Two-thirds of the poor in Dhaka rely on squatter settlements, refugee rehabilitation colonies or bastis (rental units in one or two-story buildings).
The government sees its role as a facilitator or enabler of housing rather than as a provider. Construction is left in the hands of private sector and non-government organizations. Private developers, however, generally serve the upper and middle income groups with “low cost” housing products selling for about one million taka (US$17,000). Such units are not only unaffordable to the poor but also to many in the population.
Bangladesh country profile
Population: Over 162.95 million (2016)
Urbanization: 35.4 percent lives in cities
Life expectancy: 72.222 years (2015)
Unemployment rate: 4.1
Population living below poverty line: 24.3.5 % (2016)
Access to improved water sources: 84.8 % (2012)
Access to improved sanitation facilities: 57 % (2012)
When Habitat started in Bangladesh: 1999
Families served: More than 13,000
Volunteers hosted in FY-17: 369
Volunteer hours performed in FY-17: 3,607
Habitat for Humanity in Bangladesh
Since 1999, Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh has been working with low-income families to build strength, stability and self reliance through shelter. Habitat Bangladesh currently operates in Dhaka district (City corporation area) and the districts of Mymensing, Netrokona, Tangail, Jamalpur, Khulna, Chittagong, Kurigram and Satkhira. The programs include descent, affordable housing, clean water and safe sanitation, training in affordable construction technology as well as disaster response and mitigation.
The housing need in Bangladesh
Bangladesh is among the most populous countries in the world with more than 1,200 people packed into every square kilometer. According to United Nations data, about 25 million people are living in abject poverty and nearly a quarter of the female-headed households live in extreme poverty. More than two million people in the capital city of Dhaka either live in slums or are without any proper shelter. Urban migration is mainly due to better employment opportunities, especially in the readymade garments sector, and educational opportunities. While most people migrate for economic reasons, more than 26 per cent leave for the cities because of natural disasters, river erosion and recurrent flooding.
How Habitat addresses the need in Bangladesh
Habitat Bangladesh works with partners and volunteers to provide decent homes as a way out of poverty. Responding to disasters such as cyclones or storms has enabled Habitat to help Bangladeshi families rebuild more resilient homes. Improving communities’ access to clean water and safe sanitation along with raising hygiene standards lead to better attendance in school and greater economic productivity.
Improved living conditions and health through housing and WASH Intervention
Habitat Bangladesh is working in Dhaka district as well as in the north to implement integrated housing, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) projects. Recently Habitat Bangladesh has successfully implemented a 34 month long project in Dhamrai upazila of Dhaka and Kaliganj upazila od Gazipur districts. The project was funded by Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). By the completion of the project in December 2017, the project has improved the lives of 618 households through improved housing and trained over 15000 individuals through over 1100 training sessions e.g. appropriate construction technologies, comprehensive WASH training, masonry, carpentry, electrical wiring, sewing and embroidery, etc.
Community-based disaster mitigation and preparedness
In the disaster-prone and poverty-stricken district of Satkhira in the southwest, HFH Bangladesh aims to help 3,000 people protect their lives and build disaster-resilient housing. Members of the community will also learn to cultivate and build with bamboo. Jersey Overseas Aid Commission is funding this project.
In urban Mymensingh, Habitat Bangladesh is working with Dutch and Korean partners in separate projects to build up the local community. The partnership with Foundation Op Eigen Wieken from the Netherlands aims at promoting a healthy living environment, particularly for women, children and young girls. Habitat will provide technical support to help female-headed households improve their housing. In the same area, a KOICA-funded multi-purpose building will serve as a community center for social gatherings and livelihood training as well as provide classrooms and a public library. The building also comes with gender-specific public toilets and bath houses.
Urban slum upgrading
Habitat Bangladesh is partnering with Habitat Australia to strengthen the Beguntila slum in Dhaka through the provision of clean water supply, improved toilets, communal bath houses and training in better hygiene. The project has the potential of being replicated in another urban slum.