S. Asia Flood Victims Forced to Consume Raw Food; More Help Sought

( [email protected] ) Aug 29, 2007 06:08 AM EDT

Victims of South Asia’s ruinous monsoon floods were eating raw wheat flour to survive in Bihar and other Eastern states in India, as Christian NGOs sought more generous gifts for the victims.

“Villages in Bihar were eating wheat flour mixed with water due to not being able to cook and the inadequacy of government relief efforts,” reported an official. Roads were also blocked and relief camps were looted by angry villagers who demanded more food.

More than 2,000 people have died from snake bites, drowning, diarrhea and house collapses since heaviest monsoon rain said to hit South Asia in over three decades devastated much of northern India and Bangladesh beginning in July. More than 30 million, meanwhile, have been displaced by massive flooding in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal.

"We are sleeping and eating inside the trucks as there is water everywhere and we have nowhere to go," said Anukul Samanta, a villager in West Midnapore district.

Even drinking water has been difficult, he complained.

Christian volunteers and aid agencies that have been serving the flood victims for the past several weeks, have meanwhile been on high alert and are hoping to bolster their relief efforts with financial support from the international community.

According to the latest reports, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) staff and partners in India are responding to an increase in water-borne illnesses in the Indian state of Bihar on the Nepalese border, an area struggling to recover from the worst monsoon flooding in decades.

Nurses in remote health centers are treating more cases of malaria, diarrhea and respiratory infections. Snake bites are also on the rise, and health workers will need larger supplies of anti-venom to prevent victims from dying, reported CRS, the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States.

"Snake bites are not uncommon in the summer months, but the number of cases this year in Bihar is much higher due to the flooding," said Jennifer Poidatz, CRS India country representative, in a report Wednesday. "With more heavy rain in the forecast, we're concerned the health risks here could get much worse."

Meanwhile, in less publicized Bangladesh, World Vision was scheduled to distribute relief packages to 17,000 families in four sub-districts of Sirajganj – Sadar, Ullapara, Kamarkhanda, Shahzadpur – beginning Aug. 22. The packages contained rice, lentils, soybean oil, salt and sugar, biscuits, clothing and oral rehydration salts to treat diarrhea.

Along with the relief packages, World Vision distributed 25,000 post-flood survival brochures. World Vision is also hoping to deliver medium-term rehabilitation, including agricultural support, vegetable seeds and seedlings, livestock de-worming and employment opportunities in rebuilding infrastructure.

Other Christian aid agencies – including Action by Churches Together (ACT) International, BWAid, Christian Aid, Tearfund, the Evangelical Fellowship of India Commission on Relief (EFICOR), Caritas Internationalis, and the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), among others – are also working with their partners in various Indian states and regions to bring relief to devastated areas.

All are seeking more help from generous donors around the world.

"There are still so many families who are totally helpless, living on the streets or under trees or in other people's houses," said Denis Baskey, regional director of Caritas Rajshahi in Bangladesh, in a report last Thursday. "They need food, water, medicines. It is quite desperate."

Caritas Internationalis – the confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development, and social service organizations present in 200 countries and territories – has launched appeals totaling nearly $6 million to assist those affected by the floods in South Asia.

Christian Post reporter Eric Young in Washington contributed to this report.