The U.N. Children's Fund is springing into action with aid as India's Bihar State faces the worst floods in 50 years. UNICEF says severe floods have destroyed almost one-quarter of a million homes affecting at least 1.25 million people in the northern part of Bihar. At least 55 people reportedly have been killed. Lisa Schlein reports from Geneva.
Flooding has affected more than 1,000 villages in 13 districts of north Bihar. This has caused large-scale displacement. The Indian government says it expects up to two million people will be impacted by the disaster.
The flooding started after the Kosi River broke a dam in Nepal and breached mud embankments in Bihar State in India a week ago.
The Indian government has set up about 155 relief camps to shelter thousands of homeless people. A spokeswoman for the U.N. Children's Fund, Miranda Eeles, tells VOA the condition of these camps is very bad, and as the number of people there grows, she says the risk of diseases will rise.
"The weather is extremely hot, which is exacerbating the conditions," said Eeles. "The hygiene conditions are very bad, the hand pumps for clean drinking water are not good enough. Sanitation facilities - people are defecating in open spaces. This is obviously extremely risky in terms of spreading disease. And, we already have heard cases of fever and diarrhea have been reported. So, the immediate priority certainly as far as UNICEF is concerned is to deliver life-saving supplies of medicine, food, clean drinking water and access to proper sanitation." she added.
Eeles says children, pregnant and lactating mothers, and the elderly are most vulnerable to the prevailing conditions.
UNICEF has conducted a rapid assessment of the situation in three of the worst affected districts. And, Eeles says, it has already provided essential supplies to some 8,000 families. These include tarpaulin sheets, hygiene kits, water purification tablets and oral rehydration salt packets to treat children with diarrhea.
Flooding in southeastern Nepal has caused significant damages and human suffering. Eeles says at least 70,000 people have been displaced.
"Also, what we have heard is that around 5,000 people from Bihar State have crossed into Nepal to seek relief from the floods. Many of the displaced are sheltering in schools. What we understand is around 30 percent of those are children."
Eeles says UNICEF so far has provided relief items to more than 10,000 people in temporary settlements and is seeking to reach 55,000 affected people in total.