It’s really difficult to truly describe just how poor the people of Bangladesh are…I’ve seen children sleeping on the sidewalks. As we drive from the city into the more rural areas there are tent cities filled with people of all ages. Trash is everywhere, piled high; as are the street beggars picking through it. These people are the saddest of all b/c they comprise of the elderly, young and disfigured (a result of the arsenic in the water perhaps) who approach you individually while you are sitting in traffic. Some beggars are children themselves holding babies and pointing to their mouth. The stand there, pressing their faces against the window, just hoping you’ll give something. The heat is oppressive and standing in traffic is dangerous, but there they are every day for hours at a time…
According to our interpreter there is currently more than 30 million people in the country who are unemployed. Also, only 38 percent of the population is considered to be educated, however this term is somewhat deceiving as education is measured merely by the fact that a person can write their own name. If you take into consideration that one of the goals of the Grameen model is that borrowers themselves must sign for their loans, the country’s education numbers would be even graver as Grameen has 8 million borrowers.
Finally, the government doesn’t offer any social services nor are there any operating non-profits on the local level (there are some NGOs). So essentially many people are left to their own devices.
The one thought that keeps cycling in my head is that this place is like Haiti before the earthquake. What must it be like there now?