Climate-related disasters widen the road to slavery

Lisa Friedman – The New York Times – Mon 30 March, 2009

SATKHIRA, Bangladesh — The stench of the kerosene lamp fills the space under the roadway overpass. Two girls and their nephew, mother and father make their home here. They sit on a wide slab of concrete covered with a cloth mat that serves as their bed.

Sheik Zapharula’s face glows in the lamplight as he recounts how his 15-year-old daughter was lured off by an admiring stranger who had been coming by the family’s rooti store. It was only years later that they learned the worst of it: that within days, the girl had been hustled illegally across the border into India and sold into slavery.

Zapharula’s family is among the poorest of the poor in Bangladesh. Not only landless and jobless, they lack even the community structure of village life. Aid workers say it’s families like this one in Bangladesh and elsewhere that are most vulnerable to exploitation. Climate change, meanwhile, threatens to thrust millions more families into desperate conditions. . .

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