Heavy rains in South Asia during the monsoon season have caused massive flooding, affecting 45 million people across the region. While some flooding is expected during the rainy season or monsoon season from June to September, this year’s floods have been the worst in many years. The UN said, “torrential monsoon rains” have fallen on people in three countries: India, Nepal and Bangladesh. As much as one-third of Bangladesh is reportedly underwater. Monsoon rains have also wreaked in India’s financial capital Mumbai.
While governments and aid agencies continue with relief efforts to provide water, food, shelter and medical aid to affected populations, heavy flooding has killed upwards of 1,400 individuals in the region. Oxfam’s latest count put the death toll at 1,453, including 1,170 in India, 143 in Nepal and 140 in Bangladesh. Countless homes, schools and hospitals have also been destroyed in the past month. “This is the severest flooding in a number of years,” International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies spokesperson Francus Markus told The New York Times.
According to a Canadian media source, 2,000 medical teams have been deployed in that country as concerns about waterborne diseases, such as malaria and diarrhea have risen because of the flooding. UN officials have also expressed concerns about increased risks to the safety of women and children from sexual harassment, violence and abuse. Many areas in South Asia are inaccessible due to damage to roads, bridges, railways and airports.
People who have survived the flood have become homeless and are in desperate need of health services and food. Beyond the immediate impact of the flooding, “people’s greatest need — beyond the humanitarian ones — is to have the certainty that whatever livelihoods and life they rebuild are not going to be lost again in tomorrow or next year’s floods,” said Valerie Julliand of the United Nations. The United Nations Children’s Fund has expressed their concerns for the 16 million children who are in urgent need of support in Nepal, India and Bangladesh. “Millions of children have seen their lives swept away by these devastating floods,” said Jean Gough, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia. “Children have lost their homes, schools and even friends and loved ones. Massive damage to school infrastructure and supplies also mean hundreds of thousands of children may miss weeks or months of school,” said Gough. “Getting children back into school is absolutely critical in establishing a sense of stability for children during times of crisis and provides a sense of normality when everything else is being turned upside down,” she continued.
Climate change is being cited as a major factor in causing the torrential rains and flooding across South Asia. According to the Pacific Standard, climate change has exacerbated the region’s monsoon flooding. “Rising sea surface temperatures in South Asia, for example, led to more moisture in the atmosphere, providing this year’s monsoon with its ammunition for torrential rainfall—much the same way abnormally high water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico intensified Harvey before it stalled over Texas,” the magazine added.
There are also concerns that climate change will make parts of South Asia unlivable by 2100. Research published in the journal Science Advances found that “4% percent of the South Asian population is expected to experience temperature and humidity conditions in which humans cannot survive without air conditioning by 2100.” The report also found that “three quarters of the population will experience environmental conditions considered dangerous, even if not downright unlivable.” Unless South Asia can meet the Paris Climate Agreement goals collectively, climate change-related disasters will continue to play a destabilizing role in the region.
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