Severe flooding has affected tens of millions of people around the world in recent weeks and months. Torrential rain is forecast to continue as new storms threaten Asia, Africa and Europe.
In South Asia alone, an estimated 37 million people have been affected, while around 200 million have been affected by floods in China. The situation has worsened in recent days in countries like the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Viet Nam and the Philippines. In many places, community recovery projects were still underway from the devastating 2006 flood season, when the 2007 monsoons began.
Throughout the flooded areas, local Red Cross Red Crescent workers and volunteers have been first on the scene, providing relief and assistance. The International Federation is also supporting National Societies around the world in responding to the floods. International appeals have been launched for Bangladesh, China, Nepal, Pakistan and Sudan.
Africa Focus: Sudan
According to the Sudanese Red Crescent, nearly 100 people have been killed and more than 200,000 have been displaced by early-season floods. Almost 70,000 houses have been damaged or destroyed, along with 130 government buildings, health centres, police stations and schools.
Near Khartoum, the Blue Nile reached between one and two meters above the 1988 high water mark, when tens of thousands of homes were destroyed and a million people displaced.
The Sudanese Red Crescent has been at the forefront of the humanitarian response to the floods, with a Movement-wide Floods Task Force coordinating the response. Fourteen mobile health clinics have distributed nearly two million chlorine tablets so far. Mosquito nets, soap, hygiene and health information have also reached 49,000 people. Volunteers have also distributed thousands of tents, plastic sheets and blankets.
“Wells, reservoirs and water treatment plants have been submerged, leaving people without access to clean water,” explained Niels Scott, the International Federation’s operations coordinator for Africa. “Many communities are without basic sanitation facilities. This is increasing the incidence of water-borne diseases such as acute watery diarrhoea,” he warned.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has more than doubled its Sudan floods appeal to almost 5.5 million Swiss francs ($4.6 million USD/ euro3.3 million), to assist 140,000 people through the provision of water and sanitation assistance and basic health care, as well as shelter and relief items.
Elsewhere in Africa, heavy rains have displaced thousands of families in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Mauritania, Nigeria and Uganda. Hundreds of Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers have been mobilized to assist in evacuations, run centres for the displaced, provide first aid and counselling, and distribute supplies to people need.
While China has been struggling with widespread inundation since late May, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is now reeling from a week of torrential rains, which have resulted in the worst flooding to hit the country in a decade.
Serious flooding in DPRK has hit six provinces, as well as the capital city, Pyongyang. Officials estimate that 200 people have been killed and 20,000 families have been affected, with 14,000 houses destroyed, 100,000 hectares of rice fields and farmland spoiled, and communications disrupted. Countless bridges, railways, and roads have been washed away.
The International Federation’s acting head of delegation in Pyongang, Terje Lysholm, predicts this year’s harvest will be affected, which could have “an impact on the food situation in the coming years”.
The emergency operations room at the DPRK Red Cross has mobilized nearly 6,000 volunteers to help with evacuations, finding temporary shelter for displaced residents and distributing relief items, including almost 2,500 kits containing blankets, plastic sheets, kitchen utensils and water containers.
In China, killer floods have left more than 1,200 people dead, forced six million from their homes and affected approximately 200 million people over the past three months. The unusually heavy summer flooding has been described as the worst in 80 to 100 years in some places.
As the waters subside, attention is turning to reconstruction and preparedness.
“We still have an awful lot of work to do helping people in evacuation centres move back to their homes, promoting good hygiene and preventing epidemics, while sorting out what happens next for the disaster-affected people,” explains Chen Yuqin, of the Huainan City branch of the Red Cross Society of China.
The International Federation is calling for 9.4 million Swiss francs ($7.7 million USD/euro 5.7 million) to urgently assist 400,000 of the hardest-hit people in China.
In South Asia, torrential mountain downpours charged downstream in recent weeks, inundating low-lying regions that had already been soaked by two months of monsoon rains. A total of 37 million people in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan have been affected by the flooding.
Large areas of stagnating water have lead to fears of outbreaks of waterborne illnesses, including diarrhoea, skin infections and malaria. Snake bites, landslides and drowning still threaten displaced villagers and those trying to return to their homes. Losses of livestock and tens of thousands of hectares of crops will hamper long-term recovery efforts.
The International Federation has issued appeals for Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan, dramatically scaling up early figures as the tragedy continues to unfold.
Half of Bangladesh remains under water, with an estimated 10.3 million people affected. Food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, clothing and shelter are still needed in many areas.
The Bangladesh Red Crescent Society and the International Federation have distributed food, water purification tablets, medical supplies and clothes to 19,600 families so far. The International Federation has also revised its appeal for Bangladesh and is now seeking over seven million Swiss francs ($5.9 million USD/euro 4.3 million) to assist 1.2 million over the next eight months.
In the Himalayas, 10 of Nepal’s 36 districts originally affected by the downpours still face persistent flooding and the threat of malaria. Floods and landslides have affected 406,000 people, claiming 131 lives and decimating vast areas of crops as well as vital infrastructure.
The Nepal Red Cross Society is leading the coordination of relief efforts between the government, UN agencies and other aid organizations.
Over 1,000 trained Red Cross volunteers were mobilized to distribute rice, noodles, salt and sugar, along with first aid and ambulance services. Plastic sheets, cooking utensils and blankets have also been given out, but such supplies are drying up in local markets.
An emergency appeal was launched by the International Federation for 2.3 million Swiss francs ($1.9 million USD/euro 1.4 million) to help more than 20,000 families affected by the torrential monsoon rains, landslides and extensive flooding in southern Nepal.
In south-west Pakistan, relief and early recovery efforts are currently underway following heavy rains, suffocating temperatures and moving flood waters that left around 2.5 million people in miserable conditions in June and July.
Mobile health teams from the Pakistan Red Crescent Society (PRCS) have treated 20,000 patients. The PCRS and the International Federation, including several Emergency Response Units, are cleaning wells, providing pumps and trucking in 660,000 litres of fresh water per day.
The International Federation also launched an appeal for over 21 million Swiss francs ($17 million USD/ euro 12.8 million) to assist more than 51,000 families affected by the floods.
In neighbouring India, 10 states have faced dramatic floods which have affected or displaced almost 25 million people.
Around 3,500 Indian Red Cross volunteers were mobilized across the country to provide basic relief assistance, including food, mosquito nets, tarps, blankets, kitchen equipment and clothing. They also have 2,500 rescues to their credit.
On 9 August, the International Federation released 250,000 Swiss francs ($207,000 USD/euro 154,000) from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to support the Indian Red Cross in its response and to help replenish preparedness stocks. Similar funds have been released for other flood affected countries.
Successive tropical storms, monsoons, and now typhoons have pounded several South-East Asian nations since mid-July, including Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
In the Philippines, the island nation is bracing itself for Typhoon Sepat, known locally as “Egay”, which is forecasted to bring heavy rains and high winds to Luzon and Visayas later this week. Rescue teams and boats from the Philippines National Red Cross are on 24 hour stand-by.
Rain-induced landslides, triggered by two previous tropical storms, injured or killed several people in the Philippines. Almost 6,000 people were evacuated from Metro Manila due to excessive flooding on 9 August.
The recent flooding in Viet Nam has been described by the Red Cross as the most devastating for more than 60 years. Sixty-one people have died, and nearly 55,000 homes have been damaged or washed away, along with schools, roads, railways and irrigation systems. In all, 370,000 people have been affected and an estimated 30,000 metric tonnes of rice has been lost from the coming harvest.
Red Cross vehicles, including four speed boats, are supporting rescue and relief operations. Volunteers have released 100 life buoys for survivors to cling to as part of the on-going search and rescue activities and are distributing mosquito nets, blankets, water containers and food for 900 of the worst-affected families.
In neighbouring Cambodia, more than 14,000 families in north and central parts of the country have been affected by flooding. Waters have risen to a metre high (about three feet) in some places, damaging roads and other infrastructure and wiping out 600 hectares of rice paddies along the Thai border. The Cambodian Red Cross Society is distributing clean water, food and other emergency supplies.
In Thailand, heavy rains in the northeast have claimed two lives and inundated vast areas of farmland. Residents in 11 provinces have been warned to brace themselves for the possibility of flash floods, monsoon winds and heavy rains as yet another storm tracks towards the continent.
Thai Red Cross volunteers are using flat-bottomed boats and four-wheel drive vehicles to evacuate people and deliver emergency relief such as drinking water, canned food, plastic bags and medicines.
Communities in Myanmar have not been spared from the rains either. Since the beginning of July, downpours have caused flooding in the north and west of the country as well as in the so-called “dry-zone” in the centre of the country. It is estimated that more than 57,000 people have so far been affected in 11 provinces.
Myanmar Red Cross volunteers have been distributing pre-positioned relief supplies such as hygiene kits and tarpaulins, as well as providing health care, staffing relief camps, building latrines and dispensing food.
Finally, communities on Indonesia’s flood ravaged Sulawesi Island continue to face challenges are they look to begin the long road to recovery. Heavy rains over the past month have caused severe flooding and triggered a dozen landslides. Seventy-two people have been killed and more than 3,300 families have been left homeless.
The Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) is now reporting cases of dengue fever, diarrhoea and skin irritations at some emergency shelters. Red Cross volunteers are continuing to distribute relief items and to provide health care.
In a cruel twist, some people affected by the floods and landslides are now on alert for possible evacuation as Karangetan volcano threatens to erupt.