Floods in northern India force 800,000 to flee

By agency reporter
September 30, 2012

Incessant rains in the Indian states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh have forced 800,000 people to flee to higher ground after flood waters breached river dykes and embankments.

Christian Aid has released £50,000 to help meet immediate fresh water, sanitation and hygiene needs in 131 flood-affected villages in the Dhemaji and Lakhimpur districts of north east Assam.

The aid is being distributed by two Christian Aid partners in the region, Rural Volunteers Centre (RVC) and Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development (SEEDS).

Christian Aid has also obtained a further €300,000 from the European Commission – Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Humanitarian Office (ECHO) to fund humanitarian assistance for six months.

More than 34 people have been killed in the third wave of flooding to hit the area during exceptionally high monsoon downpours since June, with many others forced to seek refuge on rooftops, in trees and on embankments. More than 700 villages have been submerged in the worst flooding for three decades, with those affected now facing increased risk of water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea, and skin diseases.

In Assam, the situation is complicated by fighting between ethnic groups, which has also caused people to flee their homes.

‘Flooding began again last week with a majority of rivers and tributaries flowing over the danger mark on Sunday. This has added to the already existing human agony caused by the on-going ethnic conflict situation which has forced communities to flee to relief camps across the state,’ said Christian Aid’s Regional Emergency Manager, South Asia, Ram Kishan.

‘The conflict in Lower Assam is a manifestation of a long standing feud between the tribal Bodos and Muslims, many of them who emigrated after the creation of Bangladesh. The turmoil and unrest has, over time, spread across to far flung districts like Dhemaji and Lakhimpur.

‘Christian Aid is also providing humanitarian assistance to people affected by the conflict through local partner CASA (Church’s Auxiliary for Social Action), reaching out to 1,500 families from the 25 worst affected villages now residing in relief camps. Some £30,000 has been released to provide food, water, sanitation support and essential non-food items.’

In July, Assam was hit by floods, which killed more than 70 people and forced nearly one million people to flee their homes, with flooding returning twice more since. People who had returned to their dilapidated homes have now been forced to return to safer areas.

Humanitarian assistance distributed by RVC and SEEDS includes hygiene and water testing kits (including purification tablets, mosquito nets and oral rehydration salts). They are also repairing and constructing community latrines and installing hand pumps, reaching approximately 48,000 people.

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