Climate change: Bangladesh’s exposure not identical to other developing countries

Bangladesh has a unique exposure to climate change impacts and public health emergencies, says an expert based in New Delhi

Developing countries like Bangladesh are all vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change and various public health emergencies, but their vulnerability is not identical, according to Dr Shabana Khan, founder and director of the Indian Research Academy.

“This is the very reason we saw different Covid-19 challenges faced by countries with similar cultures or development levels. Bangladesh has unique exposure to climate change impacts and public health emergencies,” she told Dhaka Tribune on Sunday. 

“Its low-lying topography, high population density, poverty, and exposure to various hazards, such as flooding, storms, earthquake, or communicable diseases like TB and Pneumonia, induce a variety of vulnerability patterns,” said Dr Shabana.

She added that these issues need to be addressed individually.

Dr Shabana, who works as a research consultant on natural hazards, disasters and climate change, was hesitant to assign a group – in terms of age or gender – as vulnerable, since “vulnerability is neither absolute nor constant”.

“Children can be vulnerable to diseases, malnutrition, and poverty, but not all are equally vulnerable. Similarly, women may be vulnerable due to poor economic conditions and health care responsibilities, but their vulnerability would vary in time and space,” she elaborated.

The authorities and public health experts should pay particular attention to vulnerability with the intention of vulnerability reduction rather than disaster management, Dr Shabana suggested. 

She said it would be more effective in reducing disasters and addressing the aftermath because “vulnerability to a hazard and disaster also tend to differ. It is easier to address the vulnerability at the community level because communities are a microcosm of both vulnerability and resilience.” 

Therefore, the expert said, both authorities and experts can benefit more from their partnership and greater interactions with the local communities to address their vulnerabilities.