Monday June 17, 2019

UNICEF Calls for Action : 16 Million Children Continue to Suffer as Floods in South Asia Claim More than 1,300 Lives

According to data released by UNICEF, the unusually heavy monsoon over the last several weeks has claimed more than 1,300 lives across India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

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India army soldiers carry children rescued from flood affected villages near Thara in Banaskantha district, Gujarat, India (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki) (VOA)
  • Floods in India, Nepal and Bangladesh have claimed more than 1,300 lives in the last two months
  • According to UNICEF, over 16 million children in the three countries are in urgent need of life-saving support
  • Persistent rainfall has damaged school infrastructure, apart from depriving children of safe places to stay at, and necessities like drinking water and food

New Delhi, September 4, 2017 : Hurricane Harvey created havoc in Houston in August, claiming 15 lives and displacing tens of thousands of people. The event was largely covered by national and international media alike, keeping people abreast with the latest updates. However, the floods in South Asia, which are equally devastating, are yet to receive due coverage from international media. According to data released by UNICEF, the unusually heavy monsoon over the last several weeks has claimed more than 1,300 lives across India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

In its entirety, over 45 million people have suffered the direct impact of the rains and its resulting floods.

Floods in South Asia

For over two months, incessant rains have submerged numerous villages thereby forcing vast numbers of people into evacuation centers and relief camps.

According to a UN Agency report, over 16 million children residing in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh are in dire need of life-saving support due to weeks of torrential monsoons that have given rise to ‘catastrophic’ floods in the three South Asian countries.

UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia, Jean Gough noted that millions of children have already been affected by these devastating floods as incessant rains continue to pose potential threat.  “Children have lost their homes, schools, and even friends and loved ones. There is a danger the worst could still be to come as rains continue and flood waters move south,” she added, according to a report by PTI.

According to official figures, at least 1,288 deaths have been reported since mid-August.

Gough believes the persistent rainfall and the resulting water accumulation have damaged school infrastructure among other things which will hamper children from attending classes for weeks, or even months. According to her, “Getting children back into school is absolutely critical in establishing a sense of stability for children during times of crisis and provides a sense of normality when everything else is being turned upside down”

Among other urgent needs of these children are clean drinking water, sufficient food supplies, hygiene supplies to control and combat the spread of potential diseases and safe evacuation places for the children to stay at, study and play.

ALSO READ Thousands displaced in Myanmar due to floods

Devastation from floods in India

According to a report by PTI, in the northern part of the country, over 31 million people have been affected in four states due to the extensive flooding. Out of this, 12.33 million sufferers are believed to be children.

The tally of houses damaged by the floods has reached 805,183 while 15,455 schools have been damaged, that has disrupted the education of children.

Additionally, the heavy downpour in Mumbai has already claimed five deaths due to drowning while twelve people, including two children have died due to the collapse of a building.

ALSO READ Why do buildings collapse?

Rescue operations are being undertaken in these states by their respective state governments, which include carrying out relief, recovery and rehabilitation operations.

Furthermore, the state governments have also sought multi-sectoral planning and coordination support from UNICEF in the three worst affected states. These include Bihar, Assam and Uttar Pradesh.

Devastation from floods in Bangladesh

According to Oxfam, with the rising water levels, the flooding is believed to be the worst since 1988 with nearly two-thirds of the country currently submerged under water.

More than 8 million people are reported to have been hit by the floods in Bangladesh, out of which 3 million are allegedly children. Primary and community educational institutions across the country have been terribly hit with as many as 2,292 schools reportedly damaged by the high water.

The country has also reported over 13,035 cases of water-borne diseases.

Devastation from floods in Nepal

Floods in Nepal have displaced 352,738 people from their homes, thus, affecting over 1.7 million people. The water has reportedly surfaced to dangerous levels, to escape which people are making use of makeshift rafts and elephants for rescue operations.

According to a report by PTI, damage to nearly 1,958 schools has affected the education of over 253,605 children.

Major media giants across the world are pledging their support to help combat the scale of  destruction.

In a blog post, Google Vice-President of South East Asia and India wrote, “We are committing $1 million from Google.org and Google employees to Goonj and Save the Children for their relief efforts.”

The NGO, Goonj aims to offer assistance to over 75,000 affected families across India and provide them with basic needs like food, blankets and hygiene supply while on the other hand, Save the Children is focused on setting up child-friendly public spaces for the children to have access to educational material.

Similar organizations have taken up an active role to help rebuild infrastructure for the community like roads, bridges and physical infrastructures.

What causes floods in South Asia?

Apart from the high magnitude of rainfall received this year, the floods in south Asia are believed to have been aggravated by human actions such as reckless construction on floodplains and in the coastal areas, waterways clogged by garbage and a faulty drainage system

According to a report published by VOA, experts have pointed out the inefficiency of the governments of the three countries and have said that is has become increasingly evident that the South Asian governments were unprepared for the annual monsoon showers.

However, disaster management officials also assert that it will be unfair to criticize the governments in view of the magnitude of the floods this year.


 

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Next Story

Bangladesh Turns to Fill Ever-Growing Gap Between Energy Consumption and Supply by FDI

With 95% of the population now having access to electricity, Bangladesh is focusing on increasing its use of renewable energy as climate and other environmental concerns are growing across the globe

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A Bangladeshi man works on the tangled electric cables hanging above a street in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dec. 12, 2017. VOA

Bangladesh has long struggled with power outages, with the nation experiencing its worst electricity crises in 2008 and 2009. Reports said one blackout, in 2014, affected as many as 100 million people — more than 60% of the population.

With a growing economy and a large population, the country always runs the risk of hampering its development process, which could cause instability. To counteract this, Bangladesh has turned to courting foreign direct investment to fill its ever-growing gap between energy consumption and supply. Companies from Britain, China, India and the United States have invested in the energy industry in Bangladesh.

With 95% of the population now having access to electricity, Bangladesh is focusing on increasing its use of renewable energy as climate and other environmental concerns are growing across the globe.

In an exclusive interview with VOA, Dr. Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, energy adviser to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, talks about how a developing country like Bangladesh is taking initiatives to bring power to the entire population by 2021 that will include an increase in green energy alternatives.

energy industry, bangladesh
Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali, left, shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi before a meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing Friday, June 29, 2018. VOA

VOA: In your address during during Bangladesh Energy and Power Summit 2018, you said investment and development of innovative technologies are the two major issues that need to be given more priority to meet the power generation targets. What steps have you taken so far to achieve this?

Chowdhury: Since 2009, we have mobilized $20 billion of investment in the power sector projects, which has been approved and are being implemented. Half of this $20 billion investment will come from the private sector. We are encouraging foreign private investors to come and invest in the power sector.

Moving away from a policy of relying on domestic investment or investments from multilateral agencies like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, our government went out to the market and involved the private sector, in particular the foreign companies who have made bids for various power projects, to raise funds on their own.

In terms of development of innovative technologies, we have established the Bangladesh Energy and Power Research Council to develop technological solutions, which are environmentally friendly. The council also aims to promote research and innovation in sustainable renewable energy.

VOA: As of 2018, Bangladesh had a capacity of generating power of 18,000 megawatts and your goal is to generate 60,000 megawatts by 2041. But how much of this 60,000 would be renewable energy?

Chowdhury: I would say 10% is a good target. We are building a nuclear power plant with 1,200 megawatts of electricity generation capacity that can be upgraded to generating up to 2,400 megawatts.

energy industry, bangladesh
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addresses the India Ideas Summit in Washington, D.C., June 12, 2019. VOA

We are also exploring possibilities of using wind energy turbines in five or six areas of the country, and invited proposals from interested companies.

We have the largest [coverage of] solar home systems in the world, [amounting to] over 6 million homes. Multiply this [by] five [members] in each home, and you have 30 million people who have access to renewable energy via solar home systems.

These are stand-alone solar home systems, small solar panels for individual households, not connected to a national grid. So they have their limitations, and I think we have reached as far as we can go through this route.

We are exploring the possibilities of connecting our national grid to national grids of other South Asian countries like India, Myanmar, Bhutan and Nepal. … Nepal and Bhutan have great potential in developing hydropower projects that would produce renewable energy in enormous quantity that can be imported to Bangladesh by connecting our national grids with the national grids of India, Nepal and Bhutan.

VOA: In an interview with Voice of America, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr. M.A. Momen said that in his recent meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mr. [Mike] Pompeo, the U.S. investment or the U.S.-Bangladesh partnership in exploration [of hydrocarbon reserves in offshore blocks] did come up, so where are we on that?

Chowdhury: U.S. companies have shown interest in investing in new explorations. Mobil came to us and showed their interest in both upstream and downstream hydrocarbon industry. We will invite them to come and discuss with us the possibility of exploration of deep sea [hydrocarbon reserves].

VOA: Are there any other areas in the energy sector where U.S. investment or U.S.-Bangladesh partnership is possible?

energy industry, bangladesh
FILE – The logo of General Electric is pictured at the 26th World Gas Conference in Paris, France, June 2, 2015. VOA

Chowdhury: Recently, we have signed a memorandum of understanding with General Electric and its local partner to provide over 2,000 megawatts of electricity. And we have signed a contract with Summit Power and GE to build a 583-megawatt power plant. So the U.S. companies are showing a lot of interest. We are hoping that they will bring state-of-the-art technology.

Chowdhury: U.S. companies have shown interest in investing in new explorations. Mobil came to us and showed their interest in both upstream and downstream hydrocarbon industry. We will invite them to come and discuss with us the possibility of exploration of deep sea [hydrocarbon reserves].

ALSO READ: Trump Administration Commits to Make Fossil Fuels Cleaner, Says Energy Secretary

VOA: Are there any other areas in the energy sector where U.S. investment or U.S.-Bangladesh partnership is possible?

Chowdhury: Recently, we have signed a memorandum of understanding with General Electric and its local partner to provide over 2,000 megawatts of electricity. And we have signed a contract with Summit Power and GE to build a 583