2 September 2008 More than 3 million people have been uprooted and 60 people killed by the worst flooding to hit north-east India in five decades, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) reported today.
The flooding began when heavy monsoon rains caused a dam to break, breaching the eastern embankment of the Kosi River, which straddles the India-Nepal border.
The Sunsari district of Nepal, where 70,000 people have been displaced, and 16 districts in India’s Bihar state – one of the country’s poorest – have been the areas struck hardest. The Kosi River appears to have altered its course, flooding areas of Bihar not prone to inundation and damaging over 220,000 houses.
WHO expressed concern over the possibility of the spread of communicable diseases.
“No outbreaks have been reported in India nor Nepal, but the flooding, risk for water- and vector-borne diseases due to the massive population displacements, hot climate, stretched hygiene and sanitation levels and eventual pools of stagnant water… left behind by receding flood waters,” said Poonam Singh of the agency’s South-East Asian Regional Office.
Working together with the Indian Ministry of Health, WHO is supplying 100 chloroscopes to assess water quality and is raising awareness on measles immunization.
In Nepal, the agency has sent enough medicine to treat over 120,000 people for one month. It has also dispatched anti-malaria and anti-diarrhoea supplies.
Along with WFP, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have all dispatched staff to the areas in Nepal affected by the floods.
UN agencies have appealed for more than $5 million for relief needs in Nepal for activities such as providing food, shelter and hygiene kits.
“With so many people forced from their homes into extremely challenging conditions, all effort must be made to ensure the supply of safe drinking water, food, sanitation and accommodation facilities, as well as essential medicines,” said Eric Laroche, Assistant Director-General for WHO’s Health Action in Crises Cluster.
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