Heavy rains poured down on India and Nepal late last week, creating flooding and landslides that have left more than 150 dead so far in South Asia. About 4 million people have been displaced.
On Tuesday, Nepal’s death toll was most severe, at 78. But the extreme weather has also killed people in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, and millions of individuals throughout the region have fled or been evacuated.
Damage has been considerable. Homes and buildings were extensively damaged or even submerged, cropland flooded, and livestock lost.
First responders have had to carry people through floodwaters and rescue others in inflatable boats. And access to vital supplies – everything from medication to clean drinking water – has been severely compromised.
The severe downpour is part of the monsoon season, which affects the region from June to September every year, often causing hundreds of casualties. Monsoon-related flooding killed more than 1,000 people in South Asia in 2017.
The flooding has also made its way to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who fled persecution in Myanmar are currently living.
While the rainfall has temporarily eased, more is expected over the next few days, and flooding continues to be a problem throughout the region.
Monsoon season is an integral part of life in the region, providing much of the water that the people of South Asia rely on for everything from agriculture to hydroelectric power.
In recent years, however, monsoons have become more erratic, causing everything from food shortages, when weaker monsoons lead to inadequate rain, to extreme flash flooding due to acute, severe rainfalls.
Flooding can be responsible for a wide range of health problems. Most immediately, people can be sickened by contaminated water, which frequently contains germs that cause tetanus in open wounds and cholera or E. coli when ingested.
But in addition, conditions in overcrowded shelters – especially when reliable aid isn’t accessible – can be breeding grounds for disease, which can lead to outbreaks of contagious diseases, including influenza, tuberculosis, and meningitis. When compromised supply lines or damaged food storage make it difficult to provide displaced people with basic nutrition, the problem compounds.
To put it simply: unhealthy people are more likely to get sick.
Direct Relief is currently in contact with partners throughout the region to coordinate the shipment of essential medical items. A shipment containing wound dressings, medicines for respiratory disease, supplies for dehydration and water purification, and other supplies will depart the organization’s warehouse this week.