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Flood-Tolerant Rice BenefitsRice farming and production impacts the lives of millions throughout the world. Rice is the staple food of three billion people globally and a source of income for many. The farming of rice also contributes significantly to the economic growth of many countries. Especially within developing countries, the success of rice production is crucial for feeding individuals and creating economic stability. Flood-tolerant rice benefits developing countries reliant upon rice for livelihoods, food security, and the economy’s stability.

Environmental Challenges Affect Rice Production in India

Recent changes in the climate have caused rice production volatility due to flooding and drought. As many as 4.8 million people in India are exposed to river flood risks each year. In India, environmental challenges have had an especially negative effect on rice crops as floods have overtaken many viable planting areas. This flooding has disproportionately affected low-income farmers. These farmers often work with less reliable plots of land that are more prone to flooding. Without the development of techniques to help combat extreme weather, both the livelihoods of low-income people within India and the general Indian economy will experience a significant socio-economic impact.

Swarna Sub-1 Rice

A strain of flood-tolerant rice called Swarna Sub-1 has been a major development that addresses crop damage due to flooding in India. As a mixture of two different rice varieties, this scientifically developed plant is able to withstand intense flooding. This type of rice has been on the market for use since around 2009; however, many farmers have not had access to the rice strain until recently. This is largely due to the lack of information about the existence of Swarna Sub-1 and a lack of accessibility to it.

Flood-Tolerant Rice Benefits

The introduction of flood-tolerant rice has allowed for an increase in rice production, as J-PAL studies have shown. J-PAL is an organization that researches innovative solutions to global poverty. The increased rice production throughout India has had an incredibly positive effect, both economically and socially, as there is a larger supply of rice boosting local economies. As impoverished farmers have seen more successful rice harvests, they have been keener to cultivate a greater amount of farmland and make riskier agricultural decisions. Farmers have also invested in fertilizers to further increase crop health as they are more sure of their ability to create a solid income through rice farming. Additionally, precautionary rice savings decreased, suggesting farmers have perceived lower risk of crop losses with the flood-tolerant rice.

Swarna Sub-1 seeds increased rice yields by about 10% over the course of two years, as seen in the study. Researchers stated that the productive behavior changes among farmers who planted Swarna Sub-1 accounted for 41% of the long-term increase in rice yields. The higher yields also increased the income of farmers by roughly $47 per hectare.

The Potential of Flood-Tolerant Rice

These flood-tolerant rice benefits have improved the livelihoods of impoverished farmers in India while also contributing to food security and local economies. Increased access to flood-tolerant rice varieties in developing countries has the potential to improve lives and lift people out of poverty.

– Olivia Bay 
Photo: Flickr

Hurricanes in HondurasIn November 2020, Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota made landfall just two weeks apart in northeastern Nicaragua. The hurricanes spread across Central America. Honduras was one of the countries hit with severe destruction. In the wake of these storms, homelessness in Honduras reached all-time highs and an active humanitarian crisis unfolded as humanitarian organizations and policymakers struggled to contend with flooding, displacement and the spread of COVID-19. The aftermath of hurricanes in Honduras requires urgent humanitarian aid.

Poverty in Honduras

Nearly half of Honduras’ population lives in poverty. The poverty rate is higher in rural parts of the country than it is in urban centers. Whereas half of all Hondurans who live in the countryside subsist in varying states of poverty, less than half of all Hondurans who live in urban areas lead lives plagued by poverty,

The disparity between rich Hondurans and poor Hondurans is overwhelmingly large. A robust middle-class has yet to take shape in Honduras so Hondurans filter into one of two polarized class groups. A high rate of violence makes life treacherous for the poor.

Seasonal flooding has a detrimental effect on economic growth. Flooding from Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota combined with seasonal flooding make 2020 one of the worst years in Honduras’ history. Livestock and farmlands were swept away and Hondurans have had to search desperately for other means to feed themselves.

Homelessness and Hurricanes in Honduras

In 1998, three million Hondurans were made homeless by Hurricane Mitch and tens of thousands were forced to flee to the United States. The devastation that was unleashed by Hurricane Mitch is the closest analog to the combined effects of Eta and Iota. Reports on the rate of homelessness in Honduras after Eta and Iota remain incomplete, but it is undoubtedly high, similar in scope to the rate of homelessness in Honduras after Hurricane Mitch.

7 Responses to Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota

  1. Public Investment in Infrastructure and Social Programs. Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez plans to engage “four times the nation’s annual budget in infrastructure and social programs to help Hondurans recover from devastating storms.” His plan will put thousands of Hondurans to work rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, so it works on two important levels. First, his plan creates jobs for Hondurans whose livelihoods were lost as a result of the hurricanes. Second, it will lead to necessary rebuilding projects.

  2. USAID Funding. By the beginning of December 2020, USAID had committed close to $50 million for humanitarian aid to meet the needs of Honduras’ relief efforts. Funding goes to securing “emergency food, shelter, urgent medical care, clean water, sanitation and hygiene.”

  3. USAID’s Honduras Emergency WASH and Shelter (HEWS) Program. In mid-December 2020, USAID announced that it will send packs of materials to “select families” through its HEWS program, which families can use to rebuild damaged or destroyed homes. Experts will also be sent to teach families how to use the material that has been sent and to work alongside families during the initial stages of the rebuilding process.

  4. Project HOPE Emergency Medical Teams. In remote villages, where poverty rates tend to be highest, villagers have scarce access to medical services. Project HOPE medical teams focus on these locations because unsanitary water supplies have been identified there. Also, cases of COVID-19 have been reported.

  5. Project HOPE WASH Program. Potable water is provided to 3,000 families through Project HOPE’s WASH program. Additionally, resources for sanitizing water, including chlorine and training materials, are provided to families so that water purification practices can be carried out indefinitely.

  6. AMDA Emergency Relief. Relief supplies, including food, coverings and hygienic supplies, were distributed to several dozen families through a partnership between AMDA and AMDA-Honduras. The rate of homelessness in Honduras is so high that many people have taken shelter in nursing homes. Hondurans who lost their homes as a result of Eta and Iota live side by side with Honduras’ elderly. Similar AMDA relief packs were distributed throughout such facilities.

  7. Distribution of KN95 and Surgical Masks. Concerns about the spread of COVID-19 have accompanied the disastrous effects of Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota. Project HOPE distributed hundreds of thousands of KN95 and surgical masks to activists, doctors and frontline workers throughout Honduras to help contain the spread of COVID-19.

Hope on the Horizon for Honduras

Hurricanes in Honduras coupled with COVID-19 created severe consequences for people living there. Long-term concerns include the effect that lack of adequate health services will have on mothers, pregnant women, newborns and young children. Many humanitarian organizations are prioritizing aid to remote parts of the country to mitigate the effects of isolation. The spread of disease is an additional concern. A comprehensive solution to the crisis at hand will involve combined efforts.

– Taylor Pangman
Photo: Flickr

Aid to AfghanistanThe period of 2018 to 2020 brought with it a series of difficulties for the people of Afghanistan, including droughts, floods and pandemics. A severe drought in 2018 impacted 95% of the country’s farmland and dried up crucial water sources. More than 250,000 people were displaced and at least 1.4 million civilians required emergency aid. Following the drought, 2019 had the opposite occurrence: heavy rainfall activated widespread flooding in nine provinces, impacting more than 112,000 people. These crises continue to be felt in 2020 as both old and new challenges exacerbate conditions for the poorest Afghans. Countries all over the world are pledging to provide aid to Afghanistan.

Conditions Affecting Afghanistan

  • COVID-19: In November 2020, Afghanistan documented 44,133 coronavirus cases and 1,650 fatalities. The socio-economic impacts have been extensive. Average household debt rose by 36,486 AFS (US$474) and the poverty level increased from 54% to 70%. According to the World Bank, Afghanistan’s economy is predicted to contract by at least 5.5% due to the 2020 impact of COVID-19.
  • Displacement: Nearly 286,000 Afghans at home and 678,000 abroad suffered displacement in 2020, bringing the total displaced to approximately four million. Internal displacement camps are rife with insanitation, poor healthcare, unemployment, limited potable water and food insecurity. According to estimations by the 2020 Humanitarian Needs Overview, one million displaced people will require aid by the end of 2020.
  • Political Uncertainty: Political instability has been a mainstay in Afghanistan for decades and continues to trouble both citizens and the international community. Despite ongoing 2020 peace negotiations with the Taliban, fighting continues in the region. As a result, desperately needed health clinics have suffered closures and 35,000 Afghans were displaced from the Helmand Province in October 2020 alone.
  • Women’s Rights: Conditions for Afghan women and children have improved in recent years, allowing 3.3 million girls to receive an education. Additionally, women have experienced expanding opportunities for political, economic and social engagement. However, government participation is still strictly limited and women are still at high risk of violence.
  • Food insecurity: Afghan farmers still had not fully recovered from the 2018 drought and 2019 flood before the impact of COVID-19 on the country raised food prices, and with it, further food insecurity. Estimates warn that one-third of the population have already exhausted their savings and are in crisis levels of food security, with 5.5 million of them in emergency levels. However, farmers are hopeful that improved climate conditions will alleviate some of the damage done in previous years of difficulties.

2020 Afghanistan Conference

International donations fund at least half of Afghanistan’s annual budget. This is unlikely to change anytime soon, especially as COVID-19’s toll on the country’s economy also decreases government revenues. There was concern that the 2020 Conference would see a diminished aid pledge from Afghanistan’s largest donors, but the meetings that took place on November 24 secured a minimum of US$3.3 billion annually for four years contingent upon a review of Afghanistan’s progress in areas of peace, political development, human rights and poverty reduction. The United States is one such donor, pledging $300 million for 2021 and promising another $300 million worth of aid to Afghanistan if the ongoing peace talks prove successful. To this end, the “Afghanistan Partnership Framework” details the principles and goals of Afghanistan’s growth in peace-building, state-building and market-building.

Rebuilding Afghanistan

While some have expressed concern that the donations for aid to Afghanistan are not enough to cover costs and that the contingency requirements will be very difficult for Afghanistan to implement without compromises, there nevertheless is hope that tighter restrictions will prevent fewer funds from being lost to corruption. Despite the future challenges ahead of Afghanistan, Afghan leaders reiterated their commitment to “finding a political settlement that can not only bring an end to the suffering of the Afghan people but strengthen, safeguard and preserve the gains of the past 19 years.”

– Andria Pressel
Photo: Flickr

floods in southeast asiaTraditionally, the people of Southeast Asia benefitted from small floods that enriched the soil and prevented bigger floods. However, human interference with the rivers has disrupted their natural ecological processes and increased long-term damage. The disruption of crops, destruction of land and the displacement of people due to flooding increases poverty, especially during Southeast Asia’s current economic crisis. Mitigating steps are necessary to prevent the harmful effects of floods in Southeast Asia.

Destructive Floods in Vietnam

In October 2020, heavy rains in Vietnam caused massive flooding that destroyed homes, land and agriculture. A massive 178,000 homes were destroyed and nearly 700,000 livestock fell victim to the floodwaters.

Described by the president of the Vietnam Red Cross Society as “some of the worst we’ve seen in decades”, the floods in Vietnam have affected around five million Vietnamese people, which will push more people toward poverty.

Urban Flooding in Cambodia

In Cambodia, cities such as Phnom Penh suffer from the effects of urban flooding. Urban flooding is unpredictable and has wide-ranging consequences, from the disruption of everyday life to the spreading of waterborne diseases. As is commonly associated with climate change, the poor are hurt the most by urban flooding, for their ability to prepare and recover from damages is significantly weaker than other classes.

Roughly 250,000 people living in Phnom Penh are living in informal settlements and deal with inadequate waste management and infrastructure. Stagnant bacteria-ridden water from floods can linger for eight months after floods, spreading a host of waterborne diseases to those in proximity. Furthermore, as the economy is projected to decrease by 4% in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, poor people are increasingly likely to be trapped in cyclical poverty.

COVID-19 Stalls Decades of Growth

Despite decades of deadly civil war, Cambodia has made consistent progress towards reducing poverty before COVID-19. Over the past two decades, life expectancy has increased 10 years, poverty has been reduced from 47% to 13%, and growth in the country averaged out to 8%.  Additionally, the country lowered infant mortality rates from 10% to 2%.

While Cambodia’s COVID-19 cases are very low, with zero deaths thus far, the contraction of the global economic market has led to financial struggles for its citizens. The poverty rate is expected to balloon back up to 20% as a result of the economic crisis. The sectors hit hardest include the tourism and garment industries, where demand from its Western consumer base has drastically fallen.

Measures Against Floods in Southeast Asia

Although the nature of monsoons is unpredictable, the extent of the damage and destruction of floods can be mitigated. One recommendation is for Southeast Asian nations to commit to curbing emissions in order to combat climate change, which can increase the volatility of weather. Climate change reduces the ability for scientists to estimate long-term trends and build dams to control flood levels.

Additionally, the concept of leaving room for the river has become popular. This concept essentially promotes soft engineering, or removing human technology from rivers and allowing their ecological processes to be carried out naturally. Furthermore, allowing and managing small floods can benefit the land and those cultivating it while preventing big floods.

Though natural disasters cannot be controlled, efforts from organizations and governments may help the country’s resilience in the aftermath of floods in Southeast Asia. Such efforts can provide instant relief to affected people and may also help to alleviate overall poverty in the countries.

– Adrian Rufo
Photo: Flickr

Flooding in LibyaLibya has been a regular victim of severe flooding for many decades and the problem is only becoming more severe. Heavy rains have caused significant problems, with flooding and landslides in urban and rural areas making day-to-day life infeasible for thousands.

Flooding in Al-Bayda, Libya

On November 6 2020, Al-Bayda, Libya, experienced torrential rains and extreme flooding, resulting in the displacement of thousands. High water levels on public roads have made daily commutes impossible for many. Additionally, the floods have left thousands without electricity and have greatly damaged properties.

The flooding of 2020 is reminiscent of the flooding in the Ghat district in 2019, which affected 20,000 people and displaced 4,500. In June of 2019, flooding devastated areas in south Libya and damaged roads and farmland.  Central infrastructure suffered unrecoverable damages, setting the region back. Areas prone to disaster are significantly limited in their progression and development when devastation is so frequent.

Flooding and Poverty

The pattern of flooding in Libya has consistently contributed to problems of economic decline, poor infrastructure and poverty. As one of the most common natural disasters, flooding impacts impoverished areas more severely because their infrastructure is not built to withstand floods or landslides.

Poor countries take a long time to recover from the impact of flooding because they do not have the resources and money to repair property damage and help people to bounce back from the effects. War-affected countries are even more vulnerable and Libya is such a country affected by war and conflict.

Within the country, a two-day holiday was declared on November 9 and 10 of 2020 due to the extreme flooding and $7 million has been allocated to address damages in Al-Bayda municipality.  Since the flooding, there has been little recognition and support from the international community.

Humanitarian Aid

A humanitarian aid team from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operation (ECHO) assembled to provide aid to support the city of Al-Bayda and other cities vulnerable to flooding in Libya. The team worked to gather information and identify what resources are most needed to help families get back on their feet and be better prepared for future severe flooding and weather. Cleanup efforts are ongoing and teams started using satellite imaging and other data-collecting resources to help assess and plan for resource distribution.

The Need for Foreign Aid in Libya

In response to Libya’s chronic vulnerability to severe flooding, in 2019, the U.S. Government provided nearly $31.3 million to address the humanitarian needs of conflict-affected populations throughout Libya. Since the floods are ongoing, ongoing assistance is needed. Proactive and preventative measures need to be implemented in response to the devastating pattern of flooding in Libya. These are expensive investments, however, and Libya cannot implement these preventative measures alone. Help from the international community is crucial in order to create a more resilient country.

– Allyson Reeder
Photo: Flickr

Flooding in CameroonFlooding in Cameroon is common during the rainy season, greatly impacting the northern regions. In recent years, flooding has worsened in the north and harmed access to livelihoods which has impacted those in poverty. While these natural disasters are not entirely preventable, organizations are working with Cameroon’s government to lessen their effects.

History of Flooding in Cameroon

In 2015, flooding in Cameroon displaced thousands of people. The country’s capital city, Yaoundé, as well as the large population city of Douala, are vulnerable to flooding. By August of 2015, the flooding disaster had impacted 40,000 people in those cities.

The capital itself has experienced 130 floods in the past, between the years of 1980 and 2014. All of those floods caused economic damage as well as the loss of life. Flooding in cities can also lead to disease outbreaks because bugs and bacteria can live in the still floodwater.

In 2019, flooding impacted Cameroon’s northern region. The floods greatly impacted livelihoods because about 70% of people in the area are farmers. When the Logone River overflowed, it impacted the agriculture that occurs on the floodplain next to it. ACAPS, an organization that helps disaster responders through research, reported that the flooding affected things like “fishing, rice production, and pasture.”

The region in the far north of Cameroon is also the poorest. About 75% of the population experiences greater risk during floods because poorer households often live in homes made from materials such as straw roofing. These materials are not durable long-term and are, therefore, negatively impacted by floodwater. This is not the first time the Logone river and the northern region have flooded. In 2012, a flood in the area damaged 30,000 households.

The Path to Recovery

Since 2014, The World Bank has been working on the Flood Emergency Project in Cameroon. This project came into being after flooding on the Logone and in northern Cameroon. About “100,000 are being protected from annual risks of floods,” and disaster risk management and livelihoods in the region have improved.

After the 2015 floods, the government worked to decrease the number of floods that affect cities, particularly the capital. The government built a “drainage canal network” which cost about $102 million USD, according to the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR). The idea of the project is to include a waste treatment and disposal plant as well as four more drainage canals.

“The first phase of the project helped to scale down the number of floods from 15 to three annually. But much still remains to be done in order that peripheries which are still vulnerable to floods are completely freed from related risks,” said Serge Mbarga Enama, an engineer at Yaoundé City Council, to UNDRR.

The government also looked at high flood-risk areas and evicted people living in those places. The danger with evicting people from these areas is that they lack enough compensation for the loss of home and some end up returning to flood-risk areas. Others are at risk of becoming homeless in big cities like the capital.

Aside from looking more closely at those living in high-risk areas, the government adopted the “Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.” It is a global agreement that would last 15 years. The goal of the framework is to raise awareness about disasters in order to reduce the effects of flooding in Cameroon.

What is Currently Happening

Since the 2019 floods, the Cameroon Red Cross Society responds to disasters. The organization was able to reach affected areas soon after the floods, only taking a few days. The organization provided first aid and support services, as well as kits filled with essential household items for those in need.

The Cameroon government is still involved with the 15-year Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and working to improve disaster awareness. The UNDRR reported that the program focuses on four key aspects:

  1. Understanding disaster risk

  2. Strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk

  3. Investing in disaster reduction for resilience and enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response

  4. To “Build Back Better” in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Cameroon will continue working on the program until 2030.

Flooding in Cameroon has a major impact on the northern region, as well as big cities such as the capital. While floods impact the livelihoods of people in high-risk areas, as well as impact poorer populations more, different things right now address these disasters. The Cameroonian government along with other organizations are working to reduce the impacts of flooding on the people.

Melody Kazel
Photo: Flickr

 NamibiaNamibia gained its independence from South Africa in 1990. However, it is still dealing with the result of socioeconomic inequalities that came from the apartheid system during colonization. The government has achieved the UNDP Millennium Development Goal of cutting its poverty rate in half, but has unfortunately failed to eradicate hunger in Namibia.

Namibia has a Global Hunger Index (GHI) of 31.4, as reported by the International Food Policy Research Institute. This shows an alarming level of hunger in Namibia. What makes it more serious is the fact that Namibia has the lowest percentage reductions in GHI scores since 2000. Though child stunting, child wasting and child mortality have declined, undernourishment has increased to 42.3 percent. The factors that lead to hunger in Namibia include frequent droughts and flooding, putting pressure on the country’s agricultural and livestock production.

Chronic droughts, lack of agricultural land and water shortages result in crop failure. This means that agricultural production is severely low, even though about 70 percent of the population depends on the agricultural sector for their subsistence.

15.8 percent of Namibia’s population lives on less than $ 1.25 per day. Its economy is largely dependent on extraction and limited processing of minerals like diamonds, gold and zinc. It is also one of the largest producers of uranium in the world. However, only 10 percent of the labor force is employed in the mining sector.

Poverty is the most important of the causes of hunger in Namibia, limiting access to food. Another problem is that Namibia is heavily reliant on food imports (60 percent of all its food requirements), which means it is subject to high prices. The proportion of food insecure individuals was estimated at 25 percent in 2016.

Recently, the World Food Programme and Namibia’s National Planning Commission launched a five-year Country Strategic Plan (CSP) with an aim to end hunger in Namibia. The CSP is aligned with the Fifth National Development Plan and the Zero Hunger Roadmap, meant to achieve two strategic wins: enabling the vulnerable population to meet their food and nutrition requirement and ensuring government policies and programme designs are more informed of hunger issues. The support includes implementation of food-based safety net programmes, food management and monitoring system as well as capacity development to sustain the improvements and achieve zero hunger in Namibia.

Tripti Sinha

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in Sri Lanka
As a country that endures two monsoon seasons and is surrounded by several bodies of water, Sri Lanka is particularly vulnerable to floods. The country’s floods do not just damage physical property, but also pose a threat to Sri Lankans’ health. Most of the common diseases in Sri Lanka are so due to the danger the floods pose.

The floods that affect Sri Lanka leave the nation’s people with damaged homes and an excess of unsanitary water. With the contaminated floodwater lingering around, more mosquitoes are likely to come, thus increasing the risk of dengue fever. Due to severe flooding that occurred this past May, affecting more than 600,000 people, many are now concerned that dengue cases will increase.

Based on statistics, they have a valid reason to worry. In the past seven months alone, there were already 80,732 dengue fever cases reported in the nation. This number tremendously exceeds the number of cases the country had seen from 2000-2016. While there are four different types of dengue fever, DENV-2 is the one that is mostly spreading throughout the nation right now.

Besides dengue fever, there are other common diseases in Sri Lanka that pose an increased threat due to flooding. One of these diseases is cholera. With 172,454 reported cases in 2015, cholera remains an issue in today’s world. The abundance of contaminated floodwater increases the risk of Sri Lankans contracting cholera.

In response to the recent flooding crisis, Australia is giving the World Health Organization money to establish programs that focus on dengue fever in Sri Lanka. The World Health Organization is also working with the Sri Lankan Ministry of Health to assist with any medical issues related to the flood. The World Health Organization is supplying the nation with more beds in an effort to provide more people with medical assistance.

Although the people of Sri Lanka struggle from the aftermath of monsoons, they, fortunately, receive help from others.

Raven Rentas

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Cambodia

In 2011 heavy rain caused one of the worst floods in the history of Cambodia. The severe weather inundated 70 percent of the country leaving a lasting impression that is still felt today. In addition to the sheer destruction of communities and loss of human life, one of the worst backlashes was the wiping away of fields of crops resulting in widespread malnutrition and hunger.

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), “Cambodia produces a surplus of paddy rice for export, household access to sufficient and nutritious food remains a serious challenge.” This problem directly correlates to the high level of poverty in the country. About 90 percent of the poor population in Cambodia live in rural areas. These individuals are the most affected by hunger.

Currently, two-thirds of the country’s 1.6 million rural households face seasonal food shortages each year. The practice of farming in Cambodia is traditional and with that comes along the problem that productivity is very low because it takes longer and it’s a more tedious practice of farming.

The numbers in regards to rates of malnutrition in Cambodia are extremely high, almost 40 percent of children under five are chronically malnourished and suffer from stunting. Within that 40 percent over 28 percent are underweight. Children aren’t the only ones suffering from malnutrition and hunger as one in every five women is underweight.

Although the fact and figures on hunger in Cambodia are alarming, aid is being provided. In December 2015, Action against Hunger with the help of Google launched Nutritional Resilience, a project that takes an integrated, multi-dimensional approach to implementing sustainable solutions to undernutrition.

The WFP is also helping by working with the Royal Government of Cambodia reaching over 1 million food-insecure people annually in the rural areas through its 2011-2016 Country Program which includes providing food-based safety nets in the sectors of education, nutrition and livelihoods.

Mariana Camacho

Photo: Flickr

Sri LankaRecently, many acres of Sri Lanka have been deluged by torrential rains from a slow-moving tropical depression in the Bay of Bengal. 22 of the nation’s 26 districts have suffered heavily from flash flooding and landslides. Officials say this is the worst flood to hit Sri Lanka in over a quarter of a century, and with the monsoon season set to arrive within the next few weeks, there will be no chance of a reprieve. International aid in Sri Lanka is sorely needed to help house and feed displaced persons.

According to Sri Lanka’s Disaster Management Center, 82 people have been killed and over 500,000 have been displaced by the flooding and landslides. The death toll could rise even higher as 118 people are still missing, according to the Press Trust of India.

Displaced persons are being housed in 594 temporary camps across Sri Lanka, according to a press release by Sri Lanka’s Red Cross.

The UN’s Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka has met with President Sirisena. Together, they discussed the emergency provisions needed to provide life-saving aid in Sri Lanka.

The UN released a statement, saying: “We met the president this morning for a briefing on emergency response and coordination. We remain committed to assist all the affected people.”

The Ministry of Health (MOH) has deployed 10 medical teams with supplies in the areas of Kolonnawan, and Kaduwels MOH divisions and the Columbo Municipal council area have been given medical supplies, according to the World Health Organization.

However, it seems the Red Cross has taken the lead in the effort to provide aid in Sri Lanka. As soon as the landslide occurred, the Sri Lankan Red Cross Society’s Kegalle Branch deployed its Disaster Response Team to Aranayake.

Shortly after their arrival, Red Cross officials coordinated with government authorities in search and rescue efforts, as well as in creating temporary camps where they have provided food, first aid and psychological support to survivors.

In Gampaha, one of the worst affected districts in Sri Lanka, Red Cross volunteers provided evacuation via boats and first aid support to people stranded in Biyagama.

The predominant presence of the Red Cross is notable since they have been previously denied access to victims of displacement in the region. In 2009, the Sri Lankan government denied the Red Cross and many other NGOs access to civilians in refugee camps following the Tamil Tiger rebels’ final battle.

Veronica Ung-Kono

Photo: Flickr