Simply put, Bangladesh has half the population of the United States (approx. 150 million people) all crammed into a space the size of Iowa. Now, most of that land (I've read estimates for 80-90% of it) flood during monsoon season. And some of that land simply doesn't come back after the flooding subsides and thus, is permanently claimed by the water. Many people are still trying to recuperate from last year's horrible cyclone Sidr, and we're already into the next monsoon/ cyclone season.
If you want a really depressing read, check out this article from the Belfast Telegraph my friend send me. A scary quotation from the article:
The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – whose predictions have consistently turned out to be underestimates – said that Bangladesh is on course to lose 17 per cent of its land and 30 per cent of its food production by 2050. For America, this would be equivalent to California and New York State drowning, and the entire mid-West turning salty and barren.The bottom line: Bangladesh is disappearing- and fast. It's a huge humanitarian crisis happening right now.
Poverty, even in my really wealthy neighborhood, is ever-present. One on my co-workers, Lulu, recently wrote a entry detailing the reality on her blog.
All the talk and images of poverty can be daunting- and overwhelmingly depressing. But while I was reading the New York Times I found a rather uplifting story about a girl and a goat and a college degree. It doesn't happen to be about Bangladesh, but a general story about how such a little act to help (in this case, the donation of a goat) can make such a big difference (a poor rural girl, Beatrice, in Uganda getting to go to school and eventually graduating from Connecticut College in the USA.) There is also a children's book about Beatrice and her goat (search amazon) that talks about giving.
Here's a link to Global Giving,the grassroots organization mentioned in the article and also for Oxfam Unwrapped which I really like. I've given some nice sheep, and honey and trees through them. (I wanted to give an alligator, but since it was as wedding gift for a couple who requested donations to charities, I didn't think something with scales and claws and big snapping jaws full of sharp teeth really said, "congratulations on your marriage". Sheep (soft, cute) honey (sweet) and trees (grow old together) seemed such the better choice. Oh... but the alligator was tempting...