South Asia Floods: More Than Three Million Children Affected by Severe Flooding Across India, Bangladesh and Nepal

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (July 17, 2019)—More than a week of heavy monsoon rains in South Asia has led to major flooding in three countries, affecting 3.2 million children.

With the monsoon season only just beginning, Save the Children is concerned more bad weather could result in a major humanitarian crisis leading to further death, injury, mass displacement and the potential spread of waterborne diseases.

More than 150 people are known to have died but hundreds more remain missing and the death toll is likely to increase.

In India’s northeastern state of Assam, more than 4,000 villages are flooded. Major roads into and out of the state are blocked, making relief efforts particularly challenging. Some 4.3 million people have been directly affected—more than a tenth of the state’s total population—including 1.72 million children. In northern Bihar state, a further one million children are affected.

“We aim to reach 15,000 children in Assam immediately with lifesaving aid, including temporary shelter, water, hygiene and sanitation services—all of which are essential to protect children from the elements and potential disease,” said Anindit Roy, program and policy director at Save the Children India. 

“Our teams on the ground say roads are blocked and power is out, making it very difficult to access towns and villages cut off from the outside world. Working with the government and our local partners, our priority is to help the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach communities affected by the floods.”

Bangladesh is also reeling from the first heavy rains of the monsoon season, with the northeastern part of the country bordering India the worst affected. Nearly one million people, including more than 400,000 children, are among those directly impacted, with 17 out of the country’s 64 districts flooded.

“We are used to extreme weather here in Bangladesh but what is most alarming is the frequency of flooding caused by heavy rainfall,” said Dr. Ishtiaq Mannan, Save the Children’s deputy country director in Bangladesh. 

“We believe the increasing intensity and unpredictability of our weather patterns is caused by climate change. Children are disproportionately affected by such calamities, more vulnerable to disease, injury, displacement, and hunger. We are deeply concerned about the safety and well-being of millions of children living in the most remote areas of Bangladesh. Lingering monsoons, rising sea levels, and frequent flash floods could increasingly put these children’s lives at risk.”

More than one million Rohingya refugees living in flimsy bamboo shelters in Cox’s Bazar in southeastern Bangladesh are also in need of assistance following days of heavy rain that has turned roads into mud. More than 6,000 Rohingya refugees have been displaced by the rainfall because their shelters were either partially or completely destroyed.

“Our teams are rushing to repair dozens of damaged structures so that we can continue to provide services for the Rohingya community in Cox’s Bazar,” said David Skinner, Rohingya response team leader in Cox’s Bazar. 

“At least 90 of Save the Children’s facilities have been damaged, including dozens of our learning centers and child-friendly spaces. It’s vital we get these up and running as soon as possible because these are often the only places Rohingya children can learn and play in a safe and supportive environment.” 

In Nepal, an estimated 385,000 people, including 155,000 children, have been affected by a week-long heavy downpour leading to landslides and widespread flooding. Dozens of people have been killed and the death toll is expected to rise further. Children are particularly vulnerable to death, injury, disease, exploitation, and abuse.

“Severe flooding and landslides have left tens of thousands of people homeless, many stranded outdoors, some cut off from the outside world,” said Ned Olney, Save the Children’s Nepal country director. 

“It’s absolutely essential that we reach these communities to avoid this turning into a health emergency. We are concerned about possible outbreaks of waterborne diseases like diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid, Hepatitis A and E, particularly in areas where water sources have become contaminated by floodwaters.”

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