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: 166.3 million (July 2014)
Urbanization: 28.4 percent lives in cities (2011)
Life expectancy: 71 years
Unemployment rate: 5% (2013)
Population living below poverty line: 31.5 % (2010)
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 6,200
Volunteers hosted: 1,929
Habitat for Humanity in Bangladesh
Since 1999, Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh has been working with low-income families to build decent homes and repair or renovate their houses. To improve the health of families, HFH Bangladesh and its partners provide access to clean water and safe sanitation, and raise personal hygiene standards. Find out more at habitatbangladesh.org.
The housing need in Bangladesh
Bangladesh is among the most populous countries in the world with more than 1,100 people packed into every square kilometer. Nearly one-third of the 166 million populations are living below the national poverty line, according to World Bank’s data in 2010. 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
HFH 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
HFH Bangladesh is working in Dhaka and Gazipur districts as well as in the north to implement integrated housing, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) projects. In a partnership with the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), 164 low income families will receive new houses or repair their houses while 62 permanent latrines will be built and 32 tube wells will be installed. The wider community in these districts will also receive WaSH training.
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, HFH 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
HFH Bangladesh is partnering with HFH 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.