Bangladesh + 3 more

CARE calls for increased international donor support for South Asian floods

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Dhaka, August 21, 2007 - CARE is calling for more support from international donors to deal with the ongoing flood crisis - considered the worst in recent memory - in Nepal, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The floods, triggered by unusually severe monsoon rains, have affected an estimated 48 million people across South Asia, and killed nearly 3,000 at last count. Rains continue in some areas, breaking riverbanks and triggering landslides and exhausting the coping mechanisms usually employed in this disaster-prone region Without increased support, the post flood situation could turn into an even greater humanitarian emergency for the many poor who live on the most vulnerable land. India alone has reported nearly 2,000 dead, and more than 35 million people affected. In Pakistan, two months after floods following cyclone Yemyin, hundreds of thousands of people are still without shelter, adequate food or medical attention. In Bangladesh, health authorities report that casualties from water borne diseases, inadequate shelter and malnutrition are increasing on a daily basis. Nearly 60,000 people have suffered from acute diarrhea and dysentery since the floods started, and thousands of others are suffering from skin diseases and acute respiratory infections. Rising prices have made medicine too costly for many poor people. Even more pressing is the need to feed people. "If we do not respond to the need for food," says Suman SMA Islam, CARE's humanitarian coordinator in Bangladesh, "there is going to be an even greater crisis."

Even after the floods recede, a new post flood humanitarian crisis is likely unless action is taken now. The immediate threat is from disease due to contaminated water. Health authorities in Bangladesh are reporting between 900 and 1,000 new cases of acute diarrhea per day. Roughly a third of the new cases are children. Bangladesh has reported more than 15,000 cases of infections and another 15,000 cases of acute respiratory disease since the floods started. As the weather turns colder, respiratory illness will become an increasing threat, especially to those children left without shelter because of the floods. In Pakistan, Nepal and India, the approaching winter months make shelter an even more urgent priority before the winter snows arrive.

A major concern, especially in Bangladesh, is food. Prices were already inflationary before the floods hit. The loss of crops, is likely to push prices even higher, and the pressure will increase even more when the Islamic period of Ramadan starts in September. Traditionally prices rise during Ramadan, even in the best of times. The price squeeze added to the financial loss from the floods, is driving many people to borrow from money lenders at exorbitant rates of interest, and plunging them even more deeply into poverty. As a result, many people who had been farming in flood zones are now moving into the cities out of desperation. That is likely to have a socially and politically destabilizing effect on the entire country.

CARE is providing relief in all four affected countries in the form of food, safe drinking water, hygiene kits, mobile medical teams to prevent and treat water-borne diseases, shelter materials, fast growing seeds for rapid harvests, and cash for work focusing on the repair of damaged infrastructure in order to help people cope. But the amount of help that humanitarian organizations can provide is directly dependent on funding, which has been slow to materialize in comparison to earlier emergencies of this magnitude. CARE is engaged in a $5 million appeal for funding to cover the crisis across the region, but that figure could go higher as the situation evolves. Without additional support, there is risk of an even greater humanitarian crisis than the one experienced until now.

Media Contact: William Dowell, dowell@careinternational.org; tel: +41-79-590-3047