Christian Aid is responding to severe floods in India, in the state of Orissa which have affected more than 3 million people and claimed at least 39 lives across 19 districts.
More than 300,000 people are severely affected and some 290,000 hectares of cultivated land are submerged under water.
Most of those in the flood-affected areas were living in houses of mud walls and thatched roofs, and initial assessments suggest tens of thousands of people may have lost their homes completely. Waterlogged land and ruined crops means many have lost their livelihood and means of food for the coming months.
Tens of thousands of people have sought shelter in overcrowded government buildings, schools and cyclone shelters. Government estimates suggest hundreds of thousands more are huddled beneath tarpaulin they have provided. Those without shelter on roads, on higher ground and on rooftops are at extreme risk of exposure with the ongoing rain.
The severe flooding of roads is hampering the ability of rescue services to respond. The government has sent boats and helicopters to help affected communities. Yet they have failed to reach some of the worst hit areas which first experienced flooding more than a week ago.
Christian Aid is providing relief to some of these districts - the Jagatsinghpur and Puri areas - among the poorest and most marginalised communities in India.
We have sent £72,000 to our local partner CASA (Church’s Auxiliary for Action) which will reach approximately 4,000 households with emergency food and essential items such as cooking utensils and candles, lights and clothing. We have also pledged a further £50,000 towards CASA’s flood relief work.
CASA-established Disaster Mitigation TaskForces within communities – a part of ongoing disaster preparedness work in the area - have proven crucial to search and rescue efforts, and providing immediate support to families cut off by floodwater.
These groups also stockpiled food and other supplies in response to flood warnings, allowing them to run community kitchens in the immediate aftermath, distributing hot meals and safe drinking water to displaced families living in temporary shelters.
Those who are now able to cook prefer to do so themselves using the items provided by Christian Aid and CASA.
‘Initial reports suggest the imperative is to provide food, safe drinking water and sanitation requirements’ explains Anand Kumar, Christian Aid’s country representative for India.
‘In the medium term people will need help repairing houses damaged by the floods and support to restore their agricultural activities.'
Anand tells us: 'Socially excluded communities such as Dalits are finding it more difficult to access immediate support to meet their basic needs. We are concerned by reports of human rights activists monitoring the distribution of relief materials who allege they have found cases of caste based discrimination in some areas.’
CASA is, together with Christian Aid, a member of the ACT Alliance, who are working to find more resources for ongoing support to flood affected families.