Over two million people affected by fresh floods in Odisha

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By Stephen Ryan in Delhi

A second wave of heavy flooding in Odisha (also known as Orissa) has affected a further 2.2 million people in the past three weeks, raising the number to over 3.4 million people across almost 5,000 villages in this state alone. At least 41 lives were lost due to the floods in the region, and five people remain missing.

John Roche, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in India said this was the worst flooding in the state for at least 30 years. “In the second round of flooding in just a matter of weeks the numbers affected have almost doubled, leaving tens of thousands marooned, and homes across hundred of villages submerged,” he said.

Despite hundreds of villages being cut off by the floods, the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) has managed to reach many of these communities by boat, and distribute thousands of tarpaulins, towels, kitchen sets, mosquito nets, clothes and dry food. There are still many more communities that need support, however, and following request of the state branch, the IRCS is releasing contingency stocks from its regional warehouses.

Other agencies and the government have also been providing assistance. A total of 258 relief camps or free kitchen centres have been opened in flood areas, and almost 145,000 people have been provided with food assistance by the state authorities. Air drops have been used to take relief to marooned villages.

Water and sanitation is one of the areas that the IRCS has identified as vital in the most severely affected areas, and two water purification units have been deployed to flooded region. Every day, around 20,000 litres of water is being purified and distributed to some of the worst impacted villages, and will increase in the coming days. IRCS youth volunteers are also being trained to educate communities on the safe storage of drinking water, household water treatment and hygiene.

Mangden Mohanty, secretary of the Odisha state branch, is shocked by the devestation in his state. “For up to 20 days, many people have been cut off from the world, their homes simply erased from the earth,” he said.

Despite their own problems, Mr Mohanty said the role of volunteers – particularly young people – has been particularly inspiring. “Junior and youth Red Cross volunteers have taken it upon themselves to help those in need,” he said. “Each day, hundreds are involved, providing cooked food to those left destitute. I feel humbled by such spontaneous initiatives. When there is a crisis such as this, everyone gets involved. This is what the Red Cross is all about.”

India is not alone in its woes caused by heavy monsoon rains this year. The IFRC has appealed for funds to support tens of thousands of people in urgent need in Bangladesh and Pakistan. Despite the dire need, funds are slow to come. India has been able to support most of the needs through a domestic appeal, together with an allocation of CHF 240,301 from the IFRC’s Disaster Emergency Relief Fund (DREF) for this wave of flooding.

Without additional funds, aid agencies will struggle to meet the needs of the millions across the region who have been overcome by the rising waters.