Flood-hit Asia Cries For Help

South Asians cried for help amid increasing fears of epidemics, while aid groups appealed for urgent food and water aid to 28 million people stranded by the worst monsoon-triggered flooding in decades.

Flood-hit Asia Cries For Help
South Asians cried for help on Wednesday, August 8, amid increasing fears of epidemics, while aid groups appealed for urgent food and water aid to 28 million people stranded by the worst monsoon-triggered flooding in decades.

"If relief does not come we spend the whole day and night without food," Rokeya, a housewife from the Sirajganj district, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) by mobile phone.

She asserted that her family was completely dependent on aid.

Rokeya said that she and her family had taken refuge on high ground to escape neck-deep water at her home.

The floods had submerged 40 percent of the Muslim country and at least partially submerged 38 out of 64 districts in the north, center and east, marooning or displacing 9.5 million people, according to the government.

The death toll climbed to 328 people, officials said Wednesday.

The flood monitoring agency said inundated areas were still suffering acute shortages of food though 8,000 tones of food had been distributed since late July.

The government has appealed to political parties, wealthy citizens and foreign countries to help rush food supplies to the flood victims.

"We have stepped up relief operations in all the flood-affected areas," said Food and Disaster Management Minister Tapan Chowdhury.

He added that the government was working with the UN and donors to distribute food and relief materials in 15 districts.

"The businessmen, foreign donors and more than 100 non-governmental organizations have joined the relief effort."

At least a fifth of flood-prone Bangladesh is inundated each year. A network of 230 rivers criss-crosses the delta nation.

Health Crisis

The UN children's fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization warned of a health crisis unless the millions of stranded people receive clean water supplies.

"Entire villages are days away from a health crisis if people are not reached in the coming days," said Marzio Babille, the UNICEF's health chief in India.

"Children who make up 40 percent of South Asia's population, are particularly susceptible."

The UN agencies said stagnant flood waters were breeding grounds for diarrhea and waterborne diseases, including cholera, as well as insect-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.

Water sources in the affected areas are either contaminated or still submerged, leaving many people relying on drinking dirty surface water.

"The situation is very acute and alarming," said Shahadat Hossain, a doctor at the country's largest diarrhea hospital in the capital Dhaka.

The government said it had mobilized thousands of medical workers and distributed millions of water purification tablets.

At least 18,300 people suffering from diarrhea have been admitted to hospitals across Bangladesh in the past eight days due to a shortage of drinking water.

Health Ministry spokesman Aisha Akhter said there have also been outbreaks of respiratory, skin and eye diseases over the past week, citing reports of more than 4,000 new cases of water-borne diseases in the past 24 hours.

In India's Bihar state, one of the country's poorest, health experts also voiced fears of water-borne disease.

The main hospital in state capital Patna reported scores of patients turning up with symptoms of waterborne viruses such as hepatitis.

"People are being treated wherever they can lie down and frankly we don't know what we will do as more are being brought in everyday," a hospital spokesman told AFP.

Some 12 million people have seen their homes and farmland partially or totally submerged after the worst flooding in 30 years inundated 1.1 million hectares (2.7 million acres) of farmland.

The state asked the federal government for two million tones of wheat and rice to feed its flood-affected population, including two million people still living in the open.

Huge swathes of Uttar Pradesh, Orissa and Assam states were also submerged during the rains, affecting another 6.5 million people.

At least 1,500 people had died of monsoon-related causes from the start of the season in June.

In Nepal, at least 95 people have died since the monsoon began, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

More than 330,000 people have been affected, mostly in the southern plains bordering Bihar.

Appeals

International aid groups said millions of dollars in aid were needed to get relief supplies to the 28 million people displaced across the three countries.

International charity Oxfam launched a one-million-pound (two-million-dollar) appeal Wednesday to help flood victims.

"Across the region people are struggling to cope with what is for many the worst flooding in living memory," said Ashvin Dayal, head of Oxfam in South Asia.

"Millions of the very poorest have lost their homes, their possessions and their livelihoods."

The aid agency said it had provided essential water equipment and temporary shelters for people who had lost their homes to flooding.

Other British-based charities are also mobilizing.

Christian Aid said it would begin distributing emergency food rations, water and cooking utensils to stranded people in Bihar on Wednesday.

"This level of constant rainfall in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh states is unprecedented. We have never witnessed this before," said Anand Kumar from the group's office in India.

Action Aid warned that the international response to the South Asia floods was running short of resources.

"Even if the rains stop, the danger remains, as flood water increases the risk of malaria and encephalitis," said the group's Harjeet Singh.

"We are still in the middle of the monsoon season but the flood response is already running short of time and money."

IOL
Last Mod: 09 Ağustos 2007, 01:13
Add Comment