The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched a multi-million dollar appeal to help hundreds of thousands of people in monsoon stricken Nepal and Bangladesh. Millions of people in South Asia have been affected by devastating floods.
During late July, Nepal was inundated by four days of the heaviest rainfall in 30 years.
The Red Cross says nearly 250,000 people are affected and the situation is set to get worse.
Red Cross Spokesman Patrick Fuller says more than 400 people were killed and nearly 200 are still missing. He says about 32,000 people have been left homeless and a number of remote villages are completely cut off because of devastating landslides.
"A few weeks back there was one village that was almost completely demolished by a landslide when half of the hillside just slipped down and went right straight through the village," said Mr. Fuller. "Fortunately, there were Red Cross volunteers within that community and some of them were able to get out. But it took 24 hours to where they could actually get to the nearest town to alert the authorities. So it is difficult, and access to these areas to bring relief assistance is very difficult and we are only halfway through the monsoon at the moment so we are expecting worse to come."
Besides landslides, Mr. Fuller says Nepal is threatened by mosquitoes which breed on stagnant floodwaters and spread malaria and encephalitis.
The Red Cross is appealing for more than $1.5 million dollars to assist 130,000 people with food, shelter, blankets and clothing. It also will provide water purification tablets which are essential to help prevent the spread of diseases such as typhoid and dysentery.
In another part of South Asia, monsoon floods in Bangladesh are posing a serious threat to people living in low-lying areas. More than 3.5 million people in the country have been affected. Patrick Fuller says among the most vulnerable people are those who are living in unhygienic conditions in temporary shelters on any high ground they can find. "They are landless people," he pointed out. "They have no property rights and if they are working as wage laborers on local farms, they have a little bit of land to cultivate. If they lose their crop that sets them back automatically. They get caught up in a spiral of debt basically, where they have to borrow money to survive."
A Red Cross appeal for $1.3 million will help the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society provide food, blankets, medicines and medical care for 150,000 displaced people.
Mr. Fuller says safe drinking water is in short supply and outbreaks of diseases such as diarrhea, dysentery and dengue fever already have been reported.