foreign aid


Perspective: Poverty, Health And Forced Eviction In The Slums Of Bangladesh

By Venita Subramanian and Maria A. May
Guest Contributors

(Note: Venita and Maria live and work in Dhaka, Bangladesh at BRAC, a poverty alleviation organization. Maria passes through Korail every day on her way to work. This piece represents our personal views, though draws on observations of our colleagues and the information we’ve been able to find in local sources.)

On April 4, one of the largest forceful slum evictions in Bangladesh’s history took place in Dhaka’s Korail bustee. Households, schools and shops within twenty meters of the road were bulldozed, with approximately 3,500 individuals affected.

“Our water supply was cut off and we have no place to go,” explained one of the affected women.

“The way the whole process was carried out was very inhumane. We received an announcement on April 3rd and the next morning, the eviction began. We were given just one night to dismantle our homes, gather our belongings and relocate ourselves. Where will we go?” said another victim.

Local shops and bazaars, the main sources of food for the community, were closed.

Many non-profit organizations, including BRAC, provide health services within the slums. Bangladesh’s recent successes in improving women’s health demonstrate that despite significant challenges, innovative, low-cost strategies can have a major impact. Under normal conditions, workers at BRAC’s health program are concerned that slum-dwellers may miss out on the continuum of care because of high rates of migration, both within slums and from slum to village. The recent demolition of Korail exacerbates this challenge for regular programming and introduces new challenges. The network of communication between field-based community health workers and residents is also disrupted, creating a rift in access to basic primary health services, including maternal and child health services.

Korail slum sits alongside Gulshan Lake. Its 30,000 residents are threatened by eviction (April 5). Photo by Ishtiaque Hussain

Few can boil their water, lacking money for fuel or wood to burn, and the few existing latrines often empty directly into the lake. The combination of crowding and unsanitary conditions creates the perfect environment for an outbreak of diarrheal disease. Continue reading