Resilience of climate-impacted river island communities impresses Luxembourg minister


When more than 20 years ago, Friendship arrived at the Jamuna-Brahmaputra River islands with a floating hospital, environmental and climatic challenges such as isolation, river erosion and floods had left communities there in an inescapable cycle of poverty and lacking access to vital services.

Since then, and notwithstanding the fact that climatic challenges are always increasing, there has been major progress in multiple respects. Working in close coordination with the Government of Bangladesh, Friendship, a Social Purpose Organisation (SPO), takes pride in having contributed its share to the progress achieved in being committed to Saving Lives, Poverty Alleviation, Climate Adaptation and Empowerment, thereby bringing major changes to these communities and their living conditions.

A 11-member delegation from the Luxembourg Ministry for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs, led by minister Franz Fayot, visited these sandbar islands in Gaibandha and Kurigram districts to observe the circumstances first-hand, recently, said a press release.

Luxembourg has been providing substantial support to Friendship’s programs in those areas over the last 15 years.

During the two-day visit, the delegation discovered the char environment and met with its inhabitants, observing altogether the challenges they are facing, their resilience in doing so and their determination in always improving their living conditions by making the best possible use of the support they are benefitting from.

Visiting, alongside the minister, were in particular Christophe Schiltz, Director of Cooperation (Luxembourg) and Peggy Frantzen, designated ambassador of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg to Bangladesh. The delegation was accompanied in particular by Runa Khan, founder of Friendship and Marc Elvinger, chair of Friendship Luxembourg.

Speaking about his visit, minister Franz Fayot stated, “By visiting the projects of Friendship in the north of Bangladesh, I was able to see first-hand the positive impact our long-standing partnership has had on the local population over the years. The work and passion that Friendship puts into implementing their projects are exemplary and I am glad that we can count on such a reliable partner to support the people of Bangladesh.”


Runa Khan, Friendship founder said, “the Luxembourg Government has been a long-time partner of Friendship. They have been among those invaluable partners who truly imbue our values and try to deeply understand the needs of the communities we work with—the type of partner who enable our work to be truly values-driven and needs-based. Therefore, I am pleased and honoured that Franz Fayot and his delegation have taken the time to visit these communities to whom we have a shared commitment to serving.”

Marc Elvinger, chairman of Friendship Luxembourg, said “Over the 15 last years, during which we have enjoyed very substantial and always increasing support from the Luxembourg government, we have been able to build a very strong relationship. It was thus only the more important to me that the Minister and his team had the opportunity to visit our programs in the field and thereby get first hand confirmation that the trust they have put in our work all along was not misplaced.”

During its journey in the chars of Kurigram and Gaibandha, the delegation visited various Friendship programs co-funded by the Luxembourg government, including a hospital ship as part of Friendship’s three-tier health care system, a raised plinth cluster village, a solar village, a Friendship primary and secondary school, as well as programmes for agricultural support, vocational training, inclusive citizenship and char theatre.

Friendship, an international Social Purpose Organisation, has been working for the last 20 years to help address the needs of remote and marginalised communities in Bangladesh—mostly those living in the river islands and southern coastal belt. The organisation, which started in 2002 with a floating hospital serving only 10,000 patients, is now providing healthcare access and other development solutions to more than 7.5 million people. Nearly two-thirds of its nearly 5,000 employees are recruited from within communities and trained as medic-aides, teachers, paralegals, etc.