Christian Aid launches UK appeal for Bihar floods

By agency reporter
September 2, 2008

The UK-based churches' development agency Christian Aid has launched an emergency appeal in response to the devastating floods in Bihar, India. More than 2.5 million people have been affected and it's feared that thousands have died.

Churches across Britain will be backing the appeal on Sunday. Christian Aid is the anti-poverty relief and action wing of a number of Britain's church denominations, but it works with those of all faiths and none on the ground.

The agency has released an initial £200,000 for immediate relief work in the region.

"Our partners are hugely experienced and they responded immediately after the floods last year and they are already working on the ground," said Anand Kumar, Christian Aid’s representative in India.

A week of incessant rain caused the flooding. On 18 August 2008, the Kosi river, which enters India in north Bihar, changed its course and shifted over 120km eastwards.

It breached more than 300km of embankments. Flood water has inundated a large area, including many towns and villages that were considered relatively ‘flood safe’ areas, and had not experienced such floods for decades. More than 2.5 million people have been made homeless.

It was thought the embankments built on both sides of the Kosi River would keep the flood water back. However, the the huge force unleashed by 51 billion cubic metres of water proved too much for them.

There are fears that the flood waters may breach the Bhimnagar barrage leading to the flooding of several more districts, signalling an even bigger disaster.

Last year Christian Aid raised £1.4 million to aid people in India and Bangladesh after floods in August and September. People’s memories of those floods are still strong, as they struggle to cope with another disaster.

A national emergency was declared on 28 August 2008.

Christian Aid partner, CASA, has offices in Bihar and through its network of field offices is feeding 5,000 people. It has extensive experience in working in emergencies.

EHA, a health-based partner based in Madhepura town, is looking after the tens of thousands of people who are stranded on high ground. It is providing medical aid and taking measures to prevent the outbreak of water-borne diseases. It has also set up community kitchens.

JUDAV is an activists-based association which is making an assessment of the worst-hit districts to evaluate the most urgent needs.

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