Vatican City: More than half of Bangladesh and parts of India are still under water after a month of heavy monsoon flooding. Caritas fears the situation will worsen as heavy rains continue to fall across much of South Asia.
“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. “They need food, water, medicines. It is quite desperate.”
Caritas organisations have been busy providing much-needed assistance to some of the more than 30 million people displaced by massive flooding in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal. One month on and millions of people are still living in makeshift shelters near embankments and roads and are in dire need of the basics necessities.
Getting relief to remote villages has not been easy, with roads washed away and water neck-high in some places.
In Bihar in northern India, children have reportedly been swimming and bathing in dirty flood waters contaminated by corpses, dead livestock, and waste, while others have been drinking from the stagnant pools.
“The villages in and around Darbhanga in Bihar look like islands surrounded by an ocean,” said Fr Varghese Mattamana, executive director of Caritas India. “There are no boats to reach remote villages, and it may take months for the water to subside.”
There has been an increase in respiratory illnesses, rashes, diarrhoea, and other water-borne illnesses across the region.
Widespread damage to crops has dealt a serious blow to the livelihoods of millions of people dependent on agriculture, while prolonged flooding threatens farmers’ chances of growing winter crops.
The monsoon devastation has claimed the lives of nearly 1,800 people in India, more than 150 in Bangladesh, and nearly 100 in Nepal.
Caritas Internationalis has launched appeals totalling nearly US$ 6 million to assist those affected by the floods in South Asia.
Caritas India has provided food and household items to over 5,000 families in the dioceses of Bettiah and Muzaffarpur, in Bihar. In addition, Caritas India is running a number of mobile medical camps in various villages. Caritas India, with the help of a doctor from Caritas Germany, is visiting remote villages with an emergency kit containing medicines to prevent diarrhoea, ear, eye, skin, and respiratory infections. Caritas India also plans to vaccinate people and distribute mosquito nets to prevent malaria.
With funds from a US$ 2 million appeal, Caritas India is providing assistance to nearly 45,000 flood-affected families in ten of the country’s states, including Andhra, Orissa, and Assam. In addition to distributing food, household items, and shelter material, Caritas India is focusing on cash-for-work programmes to involve communities in clearing debris, rebuilding homes, repairing roads, and cleaning wells.
In Bangladesh, 47 of the country’s 64 districts are flooded, affecting upwards of 10 million people. Given the magnitude of the crisis, Caritas Bangladesh has launched an appeal for US$ 1.5 million to provide emergency food and livelihood support to 10,000 families. The appeal is in addition to an earlier flood appeal for US$800,000.
At the outset, Caritas Bangladesh, through its regional offices in Barisal, Dhaka, Dinajpur, Khulna, Mymensingh, and Rajshahi, provided emergency relief to thousands of families. Over the next two months, they plan to distribute essential food kits to 10,000 flood-affected families. Longer-term plans will focus on helping people resume their livelihoods. As part of its rehabilitation plan, Caritas Bangladesh will create employment opportunities for day labourers and other vulnerable groups, with a focus on repairing and rebuilding damaged infrastructure. Caritas Bangladesh will also provide shelter and latrines to 1,500 particularly vulnerable families who have lost their homes and are unable to rebuild them by themselves.
Caritas Pakistan, which has launched an appeal for US$ 1 million, is working closely with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to respond to needs in the hard-hit provinces of Balochistan and Sindh. Food and non-food items have been given to over 6,000 families. Materials for over 600 emergency latrines have been distributed, out of which 500 have been constructed. To date, 1,000 shelter kits have distributed, with materials provided for 162 bathing spaces to complement the shelter kits. CRS has put up seven water storage tanks at seven camps in Nasirabad and is transporting 60,000 litres of water per day to the temporary sites. Caritas Pakistan and CRS are also focusing on conducting health and hygiene promotion activities in the affected areas.
In Nepal, more than 37,000 families across much of the country have been affected by the flooding. Access to clean drinking water, food, shelter, and medicines is sketchy in 27 districts. Caritas Nepal has appealed to the Confederation for US$500,000 to provide food and non-food items to 10,000 families. With the risk of water-borne diseases high, Caritas Nepal is working with other local organisations to set up medical camps to provide healthcare services. Shelter materials are being provided to 3,000 families whose homes were destroyed, while longer-term plans focus on mobilising communities to work together to rebuild houses and repair infrastructure.