Pakistan + 3 more

South Asia Floods: Poor communities exceed their ability to cope

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By August South Asia had experienced the worst floods for over a decade, and many people were hoping that the height of the monsoon season was coming to an end. However, a second bout of heavy rains and subsequent floods swept across Pakistan, Nepal, India and Bangladesh this September, plunging millions of poor and vulnerable people into further risk. The extended floods, which has affected a staggering 48 million people across the region and resulted in more than 3,000 deaths, collectively constitute one of the greatest humanitarian disasters this year.

The floods have devastated countless homes and livelihoods, with the UN estimating that more than four million hectares of crops have been damaged across the four countries. The heavy rain in September dealt struggling farmers a further blow when they were forced to watch as their new crops, recently planted to replace the ones destroyed by earlier floods, were washed away.

"These floods are particularly damaging because many farmers had borrowed money at high interest rates to plant new crops after the last floods," says Suman SMA Islam, CARE's emergency coordinator in Bangladesh. "All of that has now been lost." The continual flooding means that people who were already economically stretched have been pushed into even deeper poverty.

In addition, millions of people are at risk of disease due to the partial or total destruction of water systems. Thousands of people are suffering from gastroenteritis after drinking contaminated water, and incidences of acute respiratory illness are on the increase as people, forced to live in the open without adequate shelter, are exposed to harsh weather. Women and children are particularly vulnerable, as emergency assistance struggles to reach some of the flood-stricken communities due to severe road damage, leaving them without access to food, sanitation, safe water, medicine and shelter.

The floods have affected some of the most poor and marginalised communities in South Asia. As a result of widespread poverty and population pressures people have had no choice but to live in vulnerable, flood-prone regions of the country. CARE has been working to develop their coping mechanisms and build their resilience to monsoon floods, but the latest heavy rains have far exceeded most communities' coping capacity.

Donate to CARE's South Asia Disaster Appeal

CARE's response

CARE has been providing emergency relief since the flooding first hit in June. CARE immediately responded to the emergency by assisting with the organisation of rescue boats to save stranded families, as well as providing emergency high energy food rations, shelter and water purification tablets. CARE has also distributed tarpaulins, blankets, clothes, water storage containers and kitchen utensils to poor people who have lost everything.

Bangladesh

- CARE has installed three water treatment plants to purify 10,000 liters water per day for flood affected communities whose water sources are contaminated.

- In the first week of August, CARE distributed 45 tons of high protein biscuits to a total of 42,000 families living in the most vulnerable communities.

- By the end of October 8,000 families had received emergency packages that included rice, pulses, salt, soybean oil, vegetable, sugar, plastic sheets, rope and clothing. CARE also completed the distribution of food and essential items to an additional 14,000 families with relief funded by AusAID, Charitable Foundation Australia and ECHO.

- In August medical teams were deployed to flood affected districts. To date they have seen a total of 60,992 patients for health issues that include flood related diseases, maternal care, counseling and health education.

India

- CARE has distributed emergency food to over 13,000 families, totaling more than 60,000 people. Dry food packages include puffed rice, salt, ground Bengal gram and sugar.

- The same families have also received essential items including tarpaulins, candles and matches.

- CARE has supplied a further 2500 families with packets of re-hydration salts and provided medical relief through 30 medical centers.

Nepal

- CARE is working in six districts with 43,700 flood affected families. 4000 of the most vulnerable families are being targeted for immediate response and rehabilitation support.

- Over 1,500 families have received emergency item packages that include clothing, blankets, tarpaulins, buckets and hygiene kits.

- Health workers have distributed 4000 colour pamphlets and conducted community health education in flood affected communities.

Pakistan

- As of late October CARE has assisted 2000 of the most vulnerable flood affected families with essential items that include tents, soap, hygiene kits, kitchen sets, mosquito nets, water purification tablets and jerry cans for water storage.

- Over 200 toilets have been constructed and 100 hand water pumps have been installed.

- Over 44,000 patients including women and children have received medical help through CARE's mobile medical units equipped with trained medical staff, medical equipment and medicines.

- CARE has also provided psychosocial support to children and youth by establishing sports centres in a number of settlements, attended by around 400 children.

- To date, CARE has helped around 40,000 people (over 5,000 families) through its emergency response.

Even after people's immediate needs are met, long-term work to help people regain livelihoods will be ongoing. Crop and livestock damages are significant and their effects will be felt at least through the next planting season. In Bangladesh, for example, rising food prices have reduced the purchasing power of affected families and unemployment (already high every year from September to December during the traditionally lean pre-harvest period) will be worse than usual. The rains will make this season even harder for the poorest families. CARE is committed to helping with longer-term recovery in each of the four affected countries.

CARE's emergency response to this disaster is well underway, but more must be done. Donate to CARE's South Asia Disaster Appeal to help families deal with their current hardships as well as rebuilding and preparation for future threats.