As floodwaters begin to retreat in many of the worst affected parts of South Asia, farmers are counting the massive cost of the flooding disaster, which has destroyed more than 2.4 million hectares of cropland across India, Bangladesh and Nepal.
At least 1,200 people have died from the region’s worst flooding in years while another 40 million have been impacted.
Save the Children India’s CEO, Thomas Chandy, who just returned from the devastated Indian state of Bihar, said entire communities had lost their main source of income and were in desperate need of help regenerating their livelihoods.
“Across flood-affected parts of Bangladesh, India and Nepal, millions of people have lost their main source of income, whether it be from destroyed crops and dead livestock, damage suffered to local businesses or because they are displaced. Most often it’s the poorest families who are worst affected, the ones who really cannot afford a month or two without any income,” Mr Chandy said.
“That’s why it’s critically important that we help restore people’s livelihoods as quickly and efficiently as possible, so families can regain a sense of independence and control over their lives.
“While it’s positive to see some of the floodwaters withdrawing in Bihar and other areas, enabling people to move around and go and see what’s left of their homes, the scale of devastation is hard to comprehend.”
Mr Chandy said it was heartbreaking to hear so many tragic stories of destroyed homes and lives.
“Some communities have been totally wiped out, with not a building left undamaged. Many older people I met recounted the horror of the floods, which hit them out of the blue. They haven't seen anything like this in many years,” Mr Chandy said.
“In India alone 17 million children are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, including in protection, health care and basic nutrition support. We’re also concerned about lost education which increases the risk of children becoming involved in child labour or even trafficking.”
Save the Children’s Country Director in Bangladesh, Mark Pierce, warned that while floodwaters were receding in many parts of Bangladesh and there were no immediate forecasts of heavy rainfall, the situation could still worsen quickly.
“While some floodwaters have receded, we need to remain vigilant and assume that the worst is not over. As long as it’s still the monsoon season anything can happen. Heavy rains and flash flooding can strike unexpectedly,” he said.
“Given the level of damage across the region we know the recovery process will be long and difficult, potentially taking several years. Millions of people have had their lives turned upside down and are in desperate need of help. We must and we will work with them every step of the way.”
Save the Children is responding to the floods in India, Bangladesh and Nepal, including helping families regain their livelihoods with distribution of yarn for weaving, replacing damaged fishing nets and supporting the restoration of agricultural land.
The aid agency is also distributing urgent relief items including hygiene kits, kitchen kits and cash for basic necessities like food and clean drinking water, as well as handing out tarpaulins for temporary shelter, running special playgroups for children to help them recover and setting up temporary learning spaces so school classes can resume immediately.