Monsoon Floods in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh
As monsoon floods sweep across South Asia, the lives of those in India, Bangladesh and Nepal are threatened. While these floods can prove fatal, often they displace people; so far, over 50,000 families have been displaced by these floods. Fortunately, UNICEF and other emergency response organizations are working to bring aid to those most vulnerable to the monsoon floods in India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

The flooding in these regions has caused an onset of problems, from landslides and damaged crops to disease and famine. The most recent death toll across the region is at 800, with many still missing and 24 million directly affected. Furthermore, more than 40,000 homes have been completely submerged by flood waters.

As the flood waters recede, more problems arise as contaminated materials are deposited. This makes the risk of disease outbreak high, as people are exposed to polluted drinking water and unsanitary conditions. Some diseases that people are at risk for include typhoid, eczema, cholera, diarrheal illnesses and worm infections.

In order to combat this humanitarian crisis, UNICEF and other aid organizations are working to provide rescue and relief services to those affected by the monsoon floods in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. By identifying the most important needs of the affected population—food, water and shelter—UNICEF has been able to respond rapidly and meaningfully.

UNICEF’s relief efforts range from distributing immediate response kits to rescuing those stranded by floodwaters. The immediate response kits contain essentials: two towels, soaps, a comb, nail clippers, sanitary pads, toothbrushes, toothpaste and rope. So far, over 600 kits have been distributed among those affected, and lessons are being given on the importance of sanitation and clean water. In addition to providing relief kits, UNICEF has also led rescue missions using boats and helicopters to reach stranded individuals.

Despite UNICEF’s relief aid, South Asia is still facing troubling humanitarian crises. With the demand for emergency essentials so high, it is becoming difficult to fill all the needs of everyone affected. Many families will face difficulties ahead, as they will have to rebuild their homes with what little they have left; for the time being, however, the most important objective for humanitarian organizations is providing emergency relief.

Kelly Hayes

Photo: Flickr

The Aftermath of Floods in Myanmar
Flooding is usually just a normal part of life in Myanmar. With every annual monsoon season comes the floods, yet this year has been different.

Since June, this Southeast Asian country has experienced some of its worst flooding in decades. In total, the natural disaster has critically affected almost 1 million people and killed at least 103. There has also been an agricultural toll; water has flooded more than 1 million acres of rice fields and destroyed more than 150,000 acres.

The floods have had a widespread impact on Myanmar with all but two of the country’s 14 states affected by rains. However, some are worse off than others.

Four regions in particular, Chin, Sagaing, Magwe and Rakhine have experienced the worst of the floods. The national government stated that all four had become natural disaster zones.

Sadly these regions were also some of the most impoverished and vulnerable in “a country where nearly 70 percent of people live close to the $2/day poverty threshold,” according to UNICEF. These states face what the UN has dubbed a ‘double catastrophe,’ both extreme poverty and natural disaster.

Children comprise a substantial 34 percent of Myanmar’s population and are among the worst victims of this disaster. According to UNICEF Deputy Representative in Myanmar Shalini Bahuguna, “The floods are hitting children and families who are already very vulnerable, including those living in camps in Rakhine State…Beyond the immediate impact, the floods will have a longer term impact on the livelihoods of these families.”

Of the four most devastated states, Rakhine seems the worst off. In addition to floods, the Cyclone Komen touched down causing even more destruction. Currently 140,000 children and families have been forced to out of their homes and must live in camps designed only for short-term use.

However, even these numbers are not entirely comprehensive. UN officials have struggled to access townships in the region due to the destruction of infrastructure.

The Myanmar government in tandem with UNICEF and other UN agencies has worked recently to mitigate the damages caused by natural disasters. They have sent teams of officials to survey the destruction and to provide water purification, hygiene and health supplies to those in need.

Shalini Bahuguna also added that “We are working with the Government to get emergency messages out to local communities through radio, to tell people how to prevent water borne diseases.”

In one of the most devastated areas, Chin State, UNICEF has worked to provide stranded refugees with access to latrines constructed from local resources.

So far UNICEF has requested $9.2 million in funds for humanitarian aid for children in Myanmar. While this sum is by no means worthless, it pales in comparison to the region’s aid requirements even before the disasters. Early in 2015, the organization requested $24.9 million to assist children in Rakhine state but only managed to garner a mere $5.6 million. With this taken into account, Myanmar still needs far more foreign aid than it has received.

Though perhaps operating on a tight budget, UNICEF has still accomplished a substantial amount. They have provided 860,000 water purification tablets, which are enough for 57,000 people for just over two weeks. Similarly, they have distributed 6,000 hygiene kits for 30,000 people. Of course, much more funding is required in order to meet the needs of all of Myanmar’s people.

Andrew Logan

Sources: Unicef 1, Unicef 2, Reuters, BBC, Al Jazeera
Photo: Stuff

poverty in surat
The city of Surat, located in the state of Gujarat near the western coast of India, has seen rapid population growth and development in recent years. Although India has also gradually seen a significant drop in poverty, overpopulation in regions like Surat contributes to the perpetuation of poverty.

According to reports from The Guardian, Surat ranks fourth in the world in terms of speed of development. A 2011 census placed Surat’s population at approximately 4.5 million, up from 2.8 million in 2001. As a result of the quick spike in population, many of Surat’s inhabitants now  live in unsanitary conditions and face a dire economic situation.

Aside from the issues that arise from overpopulation, Surat may soon face harrowing consequences as a result of global climate change. Due to its proximity to India’s western coast, Surat is expected to face recurrent flooding sometime in the next few decades. Rapid urbanization has compounded the risks of flooding, blocking outlets for runoff. Higher temperatures associated with global climate change are expected to further exacerbate monsoon rains and flooding. With stagnant water and higher temperatures, conditions would be ripe for mosquitos, increasing the risk of malaria and other diseases.

The city has begun to implement proactive measures such as creating flood plans, building weather stations and hiring new “resilience” staff in order to better prepare for disaster. Along with increased urbanization, Surat faces high rates of unemployment and poverty.

Across India, unemployment disproportionately affects women. In 2013, only 27 percent of the female population aged 15 and over was active in the labor force, whereas 80 percent of the male population 15-years-old and over was working during that same period.

In Surat, financial instability prompts some women to turn to non-traditional methods of income, including surrogacy. According to a study carried out by the Centre for Social Research, 88.6 percent of surrogate mothers interviewed in Surat reported that poverty drove them to surrogacy. Another 94.1 percent of respondents cited unemployment as the main reason.

The study notes that cheap medical services coupled with lax regulations make Surat and other regions in India a popular destination for those seeking surrogate mothers. Whereas surrogacy costs can range between $59,000 and $80,000 in the U.S., these rates can be as low as $10,000  to $35,000 in India.

While non-traditional work provides some financial stability. Changes in climate and a growing population are causes of concern when considering sustainable poverty reduction methods.

Katrina Beedy

Sources: Census 2011, The Guardian,

Photo: BBC News

paraguay floods
Rivers of trash flood the streets. Cats, dogs, chickens and hogs are stranded on rooftops. Over 15,000 people are displaced. The rains keep adding to the flooding in Paraguay and water levels keep rising, pushing people out of their homes and into improvised campsites in plazas and parks. The Red Cross estimates that over 200,000 people have been affected by the heavy flooding. The persistent deluge is destroying crops, hindering transportation and compromising homes.

The areas most affected are those that border the Paraguay and Paraná Rivers, specifically the departments of Ñeembucú, Alto Parana, Presidente Hayes and Alto Paraguay. Officials report that water levels have risen almost seven feet above normal. If the rivers continue to rise and overflow the surrounding areas, Paraguay will be face to face with an environmental disaster.

The waters have already overwhelmed the Cateura trash dump-slum, which is home to the famous Landfill Harmonic Orchestra, whose characteristic instruments are crafted from salvaged materials found in the garbage dump. The floodwaters are carrying waste throughout the already polluted streets of Paraguay.

Residents of the Chacarita, an impoverished barrio nestled between Asunción’s commercial center and the Paraguay River, have had to leave their homes and relocate to tent camps on higher ground. Many families had to leave their pets behind, representing an emotional and economic loss. Not only cats and dogs, but also chickens, ducks, hogs and horses are left to fend for themselves amid the rising waters.

Paraguayan officials have issued an environmental alert over floodwaters approaching a dumpsite for toxic waste. The Congress and Senate are working on allocating $1 million to contamination prevention, and the Paraguayan government has already provided $3 million in food aid to assist displaced families.

The Paraguay Red Cross is heavily involved with relief efforts and water sanitation, in coordination with the government of Paraguay. The U.N. has also assisted with disaster assessments.

Red Cross disaster management delegate Omar Robinson states, “Our main concerns are focused on what will happen tomorrow when the population sees the receding waters and realize there are no crops left and the State will have to at some point suspend distribution of food aid. This can cause a serious crisis for the population.”

– Kayla Strickland

Sources: Red Cross, TVNZ, BBC, Latin American Herald Tribune
Photo: BBC

The international community has recognized the significance of climate change and its possible implications. President Obama’s 2010 National Security Strategy states that, “The change wrought by a warming planet will lead to new conflicts over refugees and resources…”

Recent studies have shown that climate change has lead to an increase in conflicts.  The U.N. Environment Program’s “From Conflict to Peace building” reported that approximately 40% of civil wars have been associated with natural resources. Resource availability has come under immense stress due to climate change. Natural resource-based conflicts have particularly affected Sub-Saharan Africa. And this will continue to be a problem as, in the future, the region will likely experience longer and more extreme droughts and floods, which could lead to food and water insecurity as well as increased migration and poverty. All of these factors could increase the risk of conflict in the region. To counter this increase in conflict, governments should develop new climate adaptation policies.

The UN Environment Program shows that resource-driven conflicts are twice as likely to relapse within five years of negotiations. To prevent this problem, environmental concerns and climate adaptation strategies should be included in conflict negotiations. Some non-governmental organizations, including Tearfund and the International Institute for Environment and Development, have gone directly to local communities to manage resource conflict. They believe that, by building local organizations to manage resources, the chances conflict will occur are reduced. Governments need to recognize that they will have to look to more climate adaptation policies if they wish to prevent future conflict in their countries.

– Catherine Ulrich

Source: Alertnet
Photo: Mathematics of Planet Earth

How To Make Disaster Aid Work

When disasters, such as floods, bombings, or earthquakes strike, people naturally want to help. This is humanistic and laudable but experts want to caution people who are looking to send aid because a surprising amount of charitable donations are more disastrous than helpful.

Director of the Center for Infrastructure, Transportation, and the Environment at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Jose Holguin Veras said, “If you go to a lot of disasters, as I do on a regular basis, you are going to find out talking to first responders that their number one issue is inappropriate disaster aid. They continually refer to that as the second disaster.”

Some donations Holguin Veras has come across? Wedding gowns, tuxedos, broken bikes, broken medical equipment, expired medications, undrinkable drinks, and sex toys. Holguin Veras estimated that about 60% of charitable donations are “completely useless and should not be there.” Even appropriate items can be problematic. For example, an amount of in-kind donations at disaster sites can clog roadways and prevent vital things, like water being trucked in, from making it into the sites. Another example comes from the Sandy Hook tragedy in which donors sent so many teddy bears and stuffed animals that the town had to ask for those type of donations to stop. The town finally finished the task of sending items that it could not use to India at the end of March.

Disaster relief experts say the most effective way to help is by sending monetary donations. Charitable organizations on the ground know what supplies are needed and more funding helps them be more effective. The Red Cross notes that material donations are not ideal because “these items often must be sorted, repackaged, and transported, which impedes valuable resources of money, time, and personnel that are needed for other aspects of our disaster relief operation.”

Make your donation count by donating to reputable organizations that are active in the area of the disaster. Disaster aid can only works if it is helping to create positive change.

– Essee Oruma

Source: Global Post
Photo: Morning Journalt