UNICEF concerned at ‘grim’ situation in north-east India following floods

Floods in India, Nepal have caused the Kosi River to breach embankments

5 September 2008 – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) expressed grave concern today over the worsening humanitarian situation in Bihar, where more than 3 million people have been uprooted and at least 60 killed in the worst flooding to hit north-east India in 50 years.

UNICEF is continuing its relief operation amid what it describes as a “grim humanitarian situation” with tens of thousands of people, including many children, still stranded in remote areas.

Many of them are living in the open, staying on highlands along river tributaries or on the side of the road, and many have moved more than once to escape rising flood waters.

“The displacement of people has been massive as people continue to flee or are evacuated from marooned areas. Many have settled in relief camps, but some of these have also been flooded,” UNICEF said in a press release.

Some three quarters of a million people have been evacuated from their homes and villages while 285 relief camps have been set up to shelter the displaced from the flood-stricken area, according to the UN humanitarian chief.

“This is damage on an extremely large scale,” said Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes at a press briefing today.

“The Indian authorities are well equipped and are dealing with this from their own resources, but we have offered them help and there is the possibility of funding,” Mr. Holmes added.

The relief and rehabilitation operation in Bihar could be needed for several months, according to UNICEF aid workers on the ground in the flood-afflicted area.

The agency is concentrating their efforts on delivering life-saving supplies such as clean water, medicines and shelter equipment, much of which was already stored in the region before the floods struck Bihar.

“Last year, flooding had affected other areas in Bihar and since then UNICEF had stockpiled emergency material there,” the agency’s spokesperson Veronique Taveau told reporters in Geneva.

“Therefore, it was able to immediately help affected people with plastic sheets, hygiene kits and other aid,” she added.


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