As floods continue to cause serious humanitarian problems in South Asia, an agency of churches in the UK and Ireland and its partners are launching an emergency response. According to UK-based Christian Aid, the recent floods devastating both eastern India and north and central Bangladesh. have forced around four million people their homes leaving at least 20 people dead during the past five days and around three million stranded.
The Sylhet division in northern Bangladesh is one of the worst affected regions and has been hit by torrential rain and swollen rivers, Christian Aid reported on July 15. In some areas of the north eastern province of Sylhet floods are slowly receding, but the situation has further deteriorated in at least three areas and the suffering of those affected still continues.
Christian Aid partner Friends in Village Development Bangladesh (FIVDB) reports that health facilities and other vital services are under extreme pressure. Communications with several surrounding districts have been lost and around 2,000 people are said to be sheltering in centers established by the local authority.
Outside the cities, 12 people have died and rice crops have been destroyed. River erosion has been severe and most wells, roads, houses and schools are underwater. Around 70 local relief centers are open but 2,500,000 people are said to be marooned.
Immediate concerns include scarcity of clean drinking water and sanitation problems. Because of a lack of clean drinking water, water-born diseases are on the increase in Sylhet. Meanwhile, more houses have been destroyed and animal feed is also in short supply, forcing people to sell domestic animals, which are often their main assets, at low prices. Hundreds of schools have been closed.
Currently, FIVDB is delivering food to 6,000 marooned families and planning to help 10,000 farming families with rice and vegetable seeds so that they can begin to grow food again as soon as floods recede. It will also help 1,000 families rebuild their homes. Christian Aid will be helping FIVDB fund its emergency work.
Another Christian Aid partner, the Christian Commission for Development in Bangladesh (CCDB) has reported a serious deterioration in the situation throughout much of the country.
The central part of Bangladesh is increasingly at risk of flooding. Low-lying areas in and around the capital Dhaka are now under water. The major river systems in the central region continue to rise. Thousands of acres of farmland are under water and roads and railway lines have been cut off.
In India the worst affected states are Assam and Bihar. In Assam, the Brahmaputra river has been flowing above the danger level and threatens to burst its banks, and at least one other major river has flooded. 23 out of 28 districts have widespread damage. Christian Aid partner Churches Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA) reports 16 dead, and 2.5 million affected people in 2,794 villages, while more than 14,320 houses, most of which were built of mud and thatch, have been washed away, and about 25,000 are damaged. Around 400,000 hectares of crops have been lost and roads, communications, electricity supplies and water pumps are severely affected.
CASA is working in 42 villages in two of the worst-affected districts, Nalbari and Barpets, providing food, shelter materials, clothing, blankets and other essential items to 5,000 families. It works through churches and other local partners and has stocks of emergency supplies ready around the country so it has been able to launch a response at short notice. A more comprehensive flood relief programme, including provision of shelter materials, clothing, blankets and other essential items is planned. Christian Aid is helping CASA with costs for its flood relief program in the Indian state of Assam.
Actions by Churches Together (ACT), a network of agencies that work together during emergencies--including Christian Aid partner Christian Commission for Development in Bangladesh and Church of Bangladesh--will be meeting at the end of this week to plan a response.
Christian Aid, an agency of the churches in the UK and Ireland, began working in Bangladesh in 1971 and now helps fund 11 local organizations. It worked in India for over 45 years, and today funds more than 175 projects through 64 local partner organizations. Through 16 overseas offices, Christian Aid supports local organizations, which are best placed to understand local needs, as well as giving help on the ground.