NEW DELHI, 17 August 2007 - UNICEF today expressed deep concern about the continuing threat from hunger, disease and malnutrition for the millions of children and women affected by the flooding in South Asia.
The death toll continues to climb in India and Nepal where rainfall over the last few days has caused even more floods and landslides and cut off road links in many districts - bringing further displacement, misery and desperation.
Across the subcontinent, including Pakistan, almost 2,800 people have lost their lives and nearly 50 million people have been affected in what has been described as among of the worst flooding in years - with yet more rains forecast in coming weeks.
Relief and recovery efforts are well underway in all affected countries - however the incidence of diarrhoeal and other waterborne diseases continues to rise. Access to fresh water, food and shelter for all affected populations remains the primary concern.
In addition, millions of children across the affected regions are unable to begin the new academic term as their schools have been destroyed, damaged or are being used as shelters.
India has been hit the hardest with 1,835 lives lost so far, which includes 30 people killed in flash flooding and landsliding in Himachal Pradesh over the weekend. According to the latest Government figures, more than 38 million people have been affected across the country.
More than 1.28 million homes have been damaged or destroyed in the 204 flood-affected districts. Approximately 24 million people have been affected in the worst-hit districts of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, and Orissa. This includes three million children under five years of age.
Although flood waters were beginning to recede across the country, more rainfall in parts of Northern India over the weekend continue to leave many villages stranded, with their road links either washed away or submerged.
Weather experts estimate that more rain is expected in the coming weeks, since this is still in the middle of the monsoon. UNICEF's biggest concern is that the standing water becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes and waterborne diseases.
In Bihar (pop 83 million), where 14 million have been affected, UNICEF has despatched five truckloads of relief materials to the districts of Smastipur, Madhepura, East Champaran, Saharsa and Supaul districts, in the last two days.
These supplies include polythene sheets, water purification agents, bleaching powder, ORS, jerry-cans for storing drinking water, candles and match boxes, and Iron and Folic tablets for pregnant women and nursing mothers. This latest batch of supplies will benefit 30,000 people, mostly women and children.
More than 21,000 people have received medical treatment in the last three days, thanks to the extended mobile medical teams as well as the teams already on the ground.
In Uttar Pradesh (pop 166 million), where 2.5 million have been affected, UNICEF is supporting the state Government's deployment of 512 medical teams that have been deployed in the 20 most affected districts.
UNICEF has also contracted another 20 doctors to work with district administration officials in the affected districts, and two medical teams specifically for the displaced populations in Bahraich and Barabanki districts.
In Assam 6.74 million people have been affected in 26 out of the states' 27 districts since the beginning of the floods. Over the last few days relief camps have been dismantled and people are returning to their villages, with rehabilitation work focusing on hygiene and infant and child feeding, particularly within the 6 worst affected districts. Health workers are now starting to conduct measles immunizations and have distributed water purifying tablets, ORS, and insecticide treated bed nets.
UNICEF and NGO partners are coordinating the Government of India's relief efforts in the four most affected districts by providing support for health, nutrition, and water & sanitation. This includes providing tarpaulins, water purifying agents (tablets, powder and solutions), oral rehydration salts (ORS), family hygiene kits and essential medicines.
Currently more than 50 UNICEF sponsored two-doctor mobile medical teams are working among the most affected communities in rural Bihar and Uttar Pradesh - vaccinating children against measles and conducting active health surveillance.
In Bangladesh too, the floodwaters have begun to recede and the Government estimates that the situation is likely to improve. However, more rains upstream in India could easily cause the Ganges and the Brahmaputra to overflow again. To date, there have been 481 deaths, more than 51,000 cases of diarrhoea and over 10,000 reported cases of respiratory tract infection.
Parts of Dhaka are the most affected, and the Department of Public Health Engineering has estimated that about two million families (about 10 million people) are at immediate risk because of the damage to latrines and drinking water facilities.
Around the country, 6,751 primary schools remain closed. Another 454 primary schools in the country are being used as flood shelters. The Department of Education is currently preparing to support the rebuilding of schools that were destroyed or partially damaged.
The Government has announced cash grants of Bangladesh Taka 10,000 to every severely affected family and 5,000 for every family that has been partially affected.
The National Immunisation Days Campaign, which is being supported by UNICEF and is slated for 27 October, will include one dose of Vitamin A for children aged one to five years. There is considerable concern that child malnutrition could spike in the aftermath of the flood.
The UN system in Bangladesh is working on a post-emergency early recovery and reconstruction plan, and the Government has already allocated US $ 9.3 million for farmers most affected by the floods.
UNICEF has provided essential drugs, oral rehydration salts (ORS), and 15.77 million water purification tablets. UNICEF is also making available propositioned essential items including BP-5 nutritious biscuits, plastic sheets, family and educational kits.
The death toll in Nepal continues to rise with fresh rainfall causing more floods and triggering landslides across the country. Latest reports also cite avalanches in the Himalaya that have triggered flash flooding in Mustang district, displacing some families and destroying apple orchards. According to the Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS), 131 people have been killed while five remain missing and 64 injured. Hundreds of displaced families who were just beginning the return home had to flee rising waters for the second time in three weeks, in the Terai districts of Bardiya in the Mid-West, and Saptari in the Eastern region.
Approximately 406,587 people have been affected by the floods and landslides in 44 districts, including 18,410 displaced families. A total of 55,844 homes have been damaged or destroyed in the flooding.
Relief efforts are being restricted by the continuing political violence in the Terai region, which has prevented vehicles of the NRCS from distributing much needed relief items.
Shelter, drinking water and food, remain the key needs. The NRCS, who is coordinating the relief efforts on behalf of the Government and different UN agencies, including UNICEF, has provided ready-to-eat meals for 25,000 families (150,000 people) and non-food items to 7,239 families.
UNICEF has provided 2,000 insecticide treated mosquito nets for malaria-prone populations in Western Nepal, with more ordered for distribution. An additional 15,000 hygiene kits, including plastic buckets and mugs, have also been provided by UNICEF for the most affected districts.
Radio spots in four regional languages, promoting water purification to prevent outbreaks of water-borne diseases, have also been produced and disseminated by UNICEF. These radio spots are being aired through 10 FM stations across the country.
In Pakistan, parts of Sindh and Balochistan -affected by floods following cyclone Yemyin and heavy rains in late June - are still under water. So far, 366 people have died and about 370,000 people have been left homeless and are still struggling to rebuild their lives. Up to 2.5 million people have been affected Recent monsoon rains brought more water to areas still inundated in Jhal Magsi district in Balochistan province, one of the areas worst affected by the floods. Vast areas of the Dadu and Kamber districts in Sindh province remain submerged. UNICEF is working with partners to provide safe drinking water and essential medical supplies, also to support the education system and to assist the most vulnerable children and women.
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world's largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
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