Lucky Akter (35) is a proactive disaster volunteer from Borodol Natun Hati village in Sunamganj, Bangladesh.
Despite being one of the world’s lowest carbon emitters, the Global Climate Risk Index ranks Bangladesh as the 7th country in the world most impacted by climate-related extreme weather events. 33 percent of its population and 35 percent of its territory is facing very high climate exposure. Between 2014-2020, 42 million people were affected, 9.4 million people were internally displaced, and more than 1,000 people died from the cumulative impact of 15 major rapid onset climate-related disasters, which also caused an economic loss of US $4,120 M.
In 2016, Lucky signed up to become a Union Disaster Volunteer (UDV). She then became a Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Leader in 2019, after receiving training with the SHOUHARDO III program from CARE Bangladesh. Under her responsibilities as a UDV and DRR Leader she is engaged in disaster preparedness activities and disseminating early warning messages and advisories during disaster events. Since her tenure as a volunteer she has helped more than 100 households during natural disasters.
The Haor area in Sunamganj district, where Lucky lives, is a unique wetland ecosystem in the north-eastern part of Bangladesh shaped like a large bowl. During the monsoon season, the Haor submerges under 3-4 meters of water, and almost every year flash floods occur due to the upstream and heavy rainfall to become vast stretches of turbulent water. The lives and livelihoods of the community living in these areas are greatly affected by the flash flood as it damages and destroys crops and other assets.
In 2017, heavy rainfall, as well as an onrush of water from the upstream hills in India, caused a flash flood. Ahead of the flash flood, Lucky collected advisories from the Union Parishad (UP) and quickly started disseminating weather updates in her community. She also liaised with Imams and Muajjins, the religious leaders of local mosques, in disseminating early warning messages using the speaker systems of the mosques. These timely initiatives helped people to take necessary measures in the face of the approaching flood.
As Lucky learned from the program that women and children are highly vulnerable during any natural disaster, she concentrated on helping women and children during these times.
“I was pregnant during the flood in 2017 and it was not possible for me to continue my checkup and get necessary medication,” said Rehena Akter (23), one of Lucky Akter’s neighbors. “At that time, Lucky contacted one of the Private Community Skilled Birth Attendants and ensured that I received all the necessary healthcare help I needed.”
In 2020 there was another flash flood. As the latrines of flood centers are not female-friendly, Lucky invited female and children surrounding her household to come use her personal latrine which was built in an elevated position to withstand the rising water levels. She continued providing latrine access to neighboring households for 15 days, also distributing Oral Rehydration Solution among the villagers and assisting her neighbors in shifting their belongings to a safer place.
“In the very beginning of the flood, our latrine had been washed out which created a disastrous situation for us,” said Nazma (40), one of the latrine users during the 2020 flood. “People like me and other female members of such households were in a critical condition. At that time, Lucky welcomed us to her house and allowed us to use her own latrine.”
Lucky says that the disseminating disaster preparedness messages as a DRR Leader has greatly benefitted her community. “Compared to the 2017 flash flood, during the monsoon flood of 2020, people became more responsive to early warning messages and took quicker disaster preparedness actions,” she says.
Since attending a three-day-long training in 2016 under the facilitation of SHOUHARDO III, Lucky has actively facilitated the Community Risk Assessment (CRA) process, disseminated early warning information, assisted the Union Disaster Management Committee (UDMP), and has been involved in other initiatives in her community where her support was required.
Lucky continues her journey to assist people in need as one of 2,841 Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Leaders trained by SHOUHARDO III, 67% of which are women.
As an active DRR Leader, Lucky has facilitated risk reduction and contingency plans for the community, motivated people to follow early warning advisories, identified safe places, stored dry food and non-food items, and saved money for the community. Lucky is strongly committed to continuing her duty to her community. “I participate in helping people in an emergency and feel happy that I can stand beside my people in times of crisis.”