Millions forced from homes by heavy flooding in South Asia

04 September 2017

CARITAS NEPAL

“Hidden emergency”: flood victims receive food aid from Caritas Nepal, in Saptari District

“Hidden emergency”: flood victims receive food aid from Caritas Nepal, in Saptari District

TORRENTIAL monsoon rains across huge swathes of South Asia have killed about 1300 people and forced more than 40 million from their homes.

Aid agencies are warning that, with the rain still falling relentlessly across the region, the flooding will get even worse.

Heavy rains have been falling for more than two months in Bangladesh, India, and Nepal, leading to the worst monsoon flooding for two decades and forcing millions of people into relief camps, having lost homes and possessions.

A deluge in Mumbai last week brought nearly a month’s average rainfall in a single day.

UNICEF said on Saturday that an estimated 16 million children were in need of life-saving support as a result of the flood water.

In India, flooding in four states has affected over 31 million residents, including nearly 12.5 million children. An estimated 805,000 homes and 15,500 schools have been damaged or destroyed. In Bangladesh, eight million people have been affected, including three million children and in Nepal, 1.7 million people have been affected. Areas of Pakistan, including Karachi, have also been affected by flooding.

Christian Aid’s head of humanitarian programmes for Asia and the Middle East, Madara Hettiarachchi, said: “These are some of the worst floods we’ve seen in South Asia in decades and the impact is likely only going to get worse. Farms and livestock have been washed away so food security is going to be a huge problem in the coming days and we will likely see the death toll rise.”

There are fears that waterborne diseases such as cholera could spread rapidly and agencies are struggling to get relief to those affected across such a large area.

Christian Aid has launched an emergency appeal.

The Roman Catholic aid agency CAFOD called for Christians to pray and donate money. CAFOD’s director, Chris Bain, said: “The devastation of 41 million people displaced by the flooding in South Asia risks becoming a hidden emergency as the world’s attention focuses elsewhere.

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“The Church has been at the forefront of the emergency response but there is still much more to be done. We urge our supporters to stand with us in prayer with these affected communities and to donate to our appeal so we can continue to support those in the hardest to reach communities.”

Christian Aid warned this week that India and the United States will continue to top the list of countries at risk of coastal flooding. In the US, the hurricane-turned-tropical storm, Harvey, has brought devastation to Texas and Louisiana (News, 1 September).

In a report published last year, Act Now Or Pay Later: Protecting a billion people in climate-threatened coastal cities, Christian Aid said that, by 2070, the first seven cities most at risk from flooding will be in Asia, while US cities are most at risk of financial losses from flooding (News, 20 May 2016).

The report’s author, Dr Alison Doig, said on Friday: “Research by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests that the most extreme rain events in most regions of the world will increase in intensity by 3 to 15 per cent, especially in places such as parts of the Asian monsoon region. Likewise the Royal Meteorological Society states that a warming climate means more moisture can be held in the atmosphere, leading to heavier rainfall when it does occur.

“Climate change is a threat multiplier which will increase the chance of more mass floods. If we want to address the underlying causes it’s vital we speed up the decarbonisation of the global economy and invest much more in clean, renewable energy. Otherwise we can expect to see more horrific images of flood victims in future.”

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