For 16-year-old Miraj in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, living along the River Tongi has been both a source of livelihood and a curse for his family. Each year monsoon rains flood low-lying impoverished communities like his, but this year has been especially bad.
“My father was a fisherman along the river. After he died, we thought about moving somewhere else, but my mother was afraid to… Moving would have been expensive and we don't have much money. My family is quite poor. Land is very expensive in Dhaka. Everyone wants to live here because there are no jobs outside the city. That's why we live here.
“Now it’s just my mother, my two younger brothers and I. We don’t have much, but we have each other. I stopped going to school five years ago to help out, but I don’t earn much money. I do what I can though.
“In this part of the city, most of my friends left school long ago or never attended in the first place. I guess I’m luckier than most. I can read a bit and often read to my brothers who never went to school.
“My mother washes people’s clothes, but hasn’t worked for a week. She drank some bad water after the floods and became very sick. For a whole day she was throwing up and complained of cramps. My neighbour brought her some medicine and now she’s staying with them. Their house is further up the hill. Its drier there and she’s feeling a bit better. As I’m the oldest, I’m left to take care of my brothers. I tell them not to drink the water near the house. I tell them it’s dirty.
|The rains were incredible this time around. The water rose so quickly that some of my neighbours weren’t able to protect their things in time and lost everything.|
“When the floods came this year, I did what I normally do and stacked our possessions inside our house above the water. Our house floods every year, but this year it was worse. The rains were incredible this time around. The water rose so quickly that some of my neighbours weren’t able to protect their things in time and lost everything. At night my brothers and I wade through the water to our house and sleep amongst our belongings which are stacked up on bamboo stilts.
“While my mother rests, I’ve been trying hard to find some work. But with more and more people coming into Dhaka from outside the city, the competition for day labourer jobs is stiffer than ever. There seems to be less work out there - or perhaps people would prefer to hire someone older and stronger than me.
“As for the future, I have always lived along the banks of this river and don’t have any plans to move. Where would I go? This is the only home my family and I have ever known.”
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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions