18 August 2016 - Christian Aid is using emergency funds to deliver urgent relief to communities in Bangladesh and India who have been severely affected by monsoon floods.
Heavy and persistent rainfall since mid-July has forced hundreds of thousands of people in the neighbouring countries to abandon their homes. The downpours have caused extensive damage to tens of thousands of houses, and to water sources, food stores, farmland and roads.
As monsoon season continues, Christian Aid’s local partners in the two countries are providing emergency aid to flood victims in some of the worst-hit areas, in a bid to shelter displaced families, curb malnutrition and limit the spread of water-borne diseases.
In northern Bangladesh, where over 3.5 million people are affected, Christian Aid is leading a £250,000 multi-agency response financed by the Start Fund.
Local partners are handing out relief packages to more than 17,000 people: these parcels include food, soap, disinfectant, tarpaulin and groundsheets, female sanitary items, rehydration tablets, cooking utensils and cash, to enable people to purchase other essentials.
Supplies are also being distributed to communities in the north Indian state of Bihar, one of the country’s poorest and most flood-prone regions. The floods have directly impacted 1.5 million people in the state. Christian Aid, CAFOD, Care and Oxfam are running a £380,000 relief project there, supported by the Start Fund: this will target at least 10,000 people.
Ram Kishan, Christian Aid’s Regional Emergency Manager for South Asia, said: “Loss of life has, thankfully, been limited, but the scale of need in India and Bangladesh is nevertheless vast. Although flood waters are receding, the rains are not over. Many families whose homes were deluged are still living in makeshift shelters and urgently need help.
“It’s vital we help the most vulnerable people to access nutritious food and clean drinking water. The floods submerged numerous wells and water pumps, contaminating water supplies: in many areas, these are now being used for drinking, washing utensils and clothes, and bathing people and animals. The risk of water-borne diseases is a major concern.
“With latrines also submerged, the lack of toilet facilities has increased incidences of open defecation – a major health hazard. At the same time, swampy areas and stagnant water create the ideal breeding ground for mosquitos and other insects.
“Cases of diarrhoea and dysentery have already been reported. By repairing hand pumps, chlorinating wells and providing flood victims with chlorination tablets, anti-bacterial soap and mosquito nets, we hope we can help to reduce the chances of people falling sick.”
Mr Kishan continued: “Worryingly, farmland, paddy fields, granary stores and vegetable gardens were destroyed by flood waters. Not only does this create the long-term threat of malnutrition, but is also leaves small-scale farmers in an even more desperate situation, since agriculture is the main source of income for many people in the flooded areas.”
Alongside the Start Fund projects, Christian Aid is also responding using its own emergency funds: this includes an additional £10,000 for Bihar and £30,000 for Assam, north-eastern India. Weeks of incessant rain in Assam affected nearly 300,000 people, many of whom fled flood-damaged homes made from thatch grass or bamboo.
In India, the disaster relief work focuses on some of the most vulnerable groups in villages, camps and makeshift shelters: children, women, elderly citizens and people with disabilities, as well as socially or economically marginalised communities like the Dalit people.
In two regions in Bangladesh, aid distributions are specifically targeting elderly women, pregnant women and mothers with small children: this is part of a ‘women-led response’.
Rozana Majumdar, Christian Aid’s Gender and Governance Programme Officer for Bangladesh, explained: “Women and girls are considered the worst victims of disasters and the vulnerabilities they face are unlike those faced by men. Not only have many women lost their homes in the floods, but many of them are pregnant or have recently given birth.
“I recently visited flood-hit communities in Gaibandha, northern Bangladesh. I met a woman who was nine months pregnant and didn’t know where she would go to give birth, as she is in a temporary shelter and can’t afford to travel to the closet district-level health facilities. I met another woman who gave birth in a temporary school shelter.
“Bangladesh is a male-dominated society, where the needs of women and girls are often not taken into consideration during disasters. That is why Christian Aid and our local partners are taking measures to ensure the safety of women and girls before, during and after disasters, in a way that is culturally and religiously sensitive and appropriate.”
Government agencies in Bangladesh managed to evacuate some 650,000 people to the safety of temporary camps in sites such as schools and community halls. Christian Aid has praised these evacuation efforts, which helped to limit the loss of life to around 100 deaths.
Christian Aid’s local partners in both India and Bangladesh continue to work with poor communities to help them become more resilient to natural disasters, equipping them with the resources needed to safeguard against the impacts of future floods and climate-related hazards.
For more information contact Tomilola Ajayi on firstname.lastname@example.org. The 24-hour Christian Aid press duty phone is 07850 242950.
Notes to editors:
1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in around 40 countries at any one time. We act where there is great need, regardless of religion, helping people to live a full life, free from poverty. We provide urgent, practical and effective assistance in tackling the root causes of poverty as well as its effects.
2. Christian Aid’s core belief is that the world can and must be changed so that poverty is ended: this is what we stand for. Everything we do is about ending poverty and injustice: swiftly, effectively, sustainably. Our strategy document Partnership for Change explains how we set about this task.
3. Christian Aid is a member of ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 130 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance, advocacy and development.
4. The Start Fund is administered by the Start Network, a consortium of 24 leading NGOs, including Christian Aid, working together to strengthen the humanitarian aid system with rapid support where necessary. The fund was launched in 2014 with contributions from the UK Department for International Development, Irish Aid and latterly the Dutch government.
5. Follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter: http://twitter.com/caid_newswire
6. For more information about the work of Christian Aid, visit http://www.christianaid.org.uk