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A submerged house in Assam, state, India. A submerged house in Assam, state, India.  (AFP or licensors)

UNICEF: South Asia monsoon rains ravaging lives of millions of children

UNICEF, the UN’s children’s fund, estimates more than 12 million people have been affected so far by the monsoon rains in South Asia, including over 5 million children. “These numbers are only likely to grow.”

By Robin Gomes

Devastating floods and landslides triggered by heavy monsoon rains, across Nepal, India and Bangladesh have killed at least 93 children, and put the lives of millions more at risk, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

"Millions of children have seen their lives turned upside down by the torrential rainfall, flooding and landslides," Jean Gough, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia, said on Thursday.

UNICEF responding urgently

It is estimated that more than 12 million people have been affected so far. "As the rains continue, these numbers are only likely to grow," she added.

Damage to roads, bridges and railways has rendered many areas inaccessible, and children are in urgent need of clean water, hygiene supplies, food and safe play spaces in evacuation centres.

“UNICEF is responding urgently, working with local authorities and partners to ensure children are kept safe, and provided with the support needed”, Gough assured.

In India, more than 10 million people have been affected in north-eastern states, including more than 4.3 million children.

Millions have been displaced in the tea-growing state of Assam, with many thousands surviving on the most meagre food supplies and dirty water.

In Nepal, of an estimated 68,650 temporarily displaced people, 28,702 are children. Some 88 people have died so far, including 47 children. At least 31 people are missing, and 41 others have been injured, according to the latest Government reports. Moreover, in central and eastern Nepal, nearly 12,000 households have been temporarily displaced.

In Bangladesh, monsoon rains continue to impact most of the country, particularly the central-northern and south-east regions, where more than two million people have been affected by flooding, including over 700,500 children.

Estimates reveal that 367,340 houses have been damaged or destroyed and 1,865 schools affected by floodwaters. Cox's Bazar in the south-east of the country, home to more than a million Rohingya refugees, has also been heavily hit.

In a further development, swollen rivers have broken through at least four embankments in the north and northwest of Bangladesh, submerging dozens of villages, officials said on Friday.  It has doubled the number of people fleeing their homes overnight to 400,000.  In what is seen as one of the worst floods in recent years, waters have swamped 23 districts, killing at least 30 people since the floods began last week.

Water shortage 

While parts of India have been suffering from heavy rainfall and flooding, other parts are still reeling from the aftermath of severe heat and water deficit, affecting almost half of the country.

The southwest monsoon rains, which occur from June to September, were 20% below average in the week ending on Wednesday, as rainfall was scanty over the central, western and southern parts of the country, the weather office said.

Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state, is among at least 22 Indian cities grappling with acute water shortage. The city’s municipal taps work only a few hours a week. Trains bring in emergency water supplies every few days.

Extreme weather

According to UNICEF, frequent and extreme weather patterns, such as high temperatures, intense rains, prolonged dryness and slow-moving weather fronts, are in line with predictions of how human activity is influencing the global climate.

Such conditions not only cause death and devastation but also force people to migrate and spread malnutrition, malaria and diarrhoea, among other major killers.

Gough warned that extreme weather events in Sour Asia are having a devastating impact on children and families. 

19 July 2019, 15:30