Tapping Our Trans-Local Potential for Change

Posts tagged ‘Bangladesh’

Improving Global Health: Tapping Our Trans-Local Potential for Change

Featured Speakers of the evening - Back row: Marj Ratel, Ashok Mathur, Dr. Shafique Pirani, Mohammad Zaman, Lyren Chiu, Derek Agyapong-Poku, Jerry Spiegel, Steven Pi. Front row: Shaheen Nanji, Ajay Puri, Dr. Kojo Assante, Joanna Ashworth

This post was written by Shaheen Nanji, Project Co-Director; Douglas Olthof, Project Researcher; and Chloë Straw, Project Research Assistant.

On March 16, 2011 the Engaging Diasporas in Development Project convened the second in its series of public dialogues. The dialogue was entitled Improving Global Health and covered three core themes: (1) the unique skills and experiences of diasporas influencing health; (2) how these experiences are transforming health practices and systems; and (3) tapping the current and potential impacts in Canada and beyond.

The first session opened with an overview of global health by Dr. Jerry Spiegel, an associate professor at the Liu Institute for Global Issues and UBC’s School of Population and Public Health. Dr. Spiegel explained that international health becomes global health when the causes and consequences of health issues circumvent, undermine or are oblivious to the boundaries of the state and thus beyond the capacity of any one nation to address. He also spoke of the huge disparities between the need and the capacity to deliver health services, speaking to the reality that the majority of health care providers (many of whom are from the Global South) are in North America and Europe while the burden of disease is overwhelmingly in Africa and Asia.

With these important points in mind, Ayumi Mathur brought participants into small groups, asking them to consider and discuss what health means to them as individuals. Further adding to this focus on health at the personal level, the group heard from a diverse group of storytellers.

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Climate refugees: Diaspora response to a human health crisis

Bangladeshi women try to adapt their livelihood strategies to a landscape changing rapidly due to climate change. The Ganges (locally called Padma), one of the three major rivers, is eating away valuable agricultural lands every year, making thousands homeless and landless destitute. Photo: Mohammad Zaman.

This post was written by Douglas Olthof, Project Researcher and MA in International Studies at Simon Fraser University.

Over the next 30 years, some 30-40 million Bangladeshis will take what they can from their homes and move to higher ground. They will pour into Dhaka and other Bangladeshi cities, overflowing the already expansive slums and bastees; they will cross international borders into India, Myanmar and other countries looking for livelihoods, homes and some semblance of security for their families. This mass of humanity, at least equal in size to the entire population of Canada, will not be pulled to the cities by the promise of a better future. Theirs will not be an economic migration associated with new opportunities, but instead a forced exodus driven by an unprecedented environmental calamity that they have played virtually no part in causing. They will make up the largest group of climate refugees this world has ever seen.

Bangladesh is the world’s most densely populated deltaic country. More than half of the country’s 160 million inhabitants make their homes on a massive delta formed by the confluence of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers. A one-meter rise in the sea level – as is predicted by some of the most conservative climate change models – would inundate roughly a third of Bangladesh’s land and trigger a forced migration unprecedented in its scale.

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