Bangladesh (MNN) ― Bangladesh is used to certain kinds of natural disasters: flooding and cyclones.
One kind of natural disaster they are not prepared for: a cold wave. Unusually cold weather has struck south Asia, with dozens of people reported to have died in Bangladesh and India as a result.
There are three distinct seasons in Bangladesh: a hot, humid summer from March to June; a cool, rainy monsoon season from June to October; and a cool, dry winter from October to March. In general, maximum summer temperatures range between 30°C and 40°C (86 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit). April is the warmest month in most parts of the country. January is the coldest month, when the average temperature for most of the country is about 10°C (50 degrees F).
Compassion International Communications director Kathy Redmond says although news is scarce about the situation, "We have about 2,000 families that are really suffering through this right now. Compassion is providing blankets for people, and of course, they can go to the church project."
Nearly every walk of life has disrupted. Poor people in the northern region of the country are the worst affected, Redmond adds. Families from 22 Compassion projects were affected by the cold weather. "These are people who are used to living in a tropical region, who have mud huts with dirt floors and corrugated roofs. They don't have a lot of insulation from that cold. They don't really have a heat source. They have never NEEDED a heat source."
Unable to buy warm clothes, poor people are struggling to ward off cold bite at night. Compassion teams are responding, says Redmond. "The country office is distributing the blankets, working with them and our partner churches at our Child Development Centers. People can go there and get whatever they need."
There are widespread reports of people wrapping themselves with gunny and plastic bags, torn cloth, mosquito nets, etc. Coping with the cold and damp reveals who is the most vulnerable. "This is really directly a poverty issue. When you have such cold temperatures and you don't know how to survive it...you don't have the tools to survive it."
As a result, there has been a reported wave of cold-related diseases like bronchial asthma, pneumonia, coughing, and Rota viral diarrhea as children and the elderly are hit hardest. In addition, there are concerns about how the unusual turn in weather will affect the crops in the region.
In the event of food shortages or medical needs, because of the testimony of the believers working with Compassion, "They [people in the community] see the church as a place where they can go and get their needs met," explains Redmond. And with that comes the Gospel. "The Gospel talks about loving your neighbor, loving your brother, putting other people above yourself. I think that's something that really resonates with people who haven't heard it."
It's a hope they've not had before, but "people are being able to see us as the hands and feet of Christ, and they are being able to see the church as the body of Christ." Please pray for God's protection of those who are not accustomed to the cold temperatures and for His care of those suffering illness.