Flood-hit Indians at risk of malaria, encephalitis, warns Red Cross
06 Aug 2017 - 21:00
By Nita Bhalla / Thomson Reuters Foundation
NEW DELHI: Tens of thousands of flood survivors in India’s remote northeast are at risk of contracting diseases such as malaria and Japanese encephalitis, as water levels begin to recede leaving behind conditions ripe for mosquito-breeding, the Red Cross has warned.
More than 100 people have died in northeastern parts of India and tens of thousands have been displaced by the floods which have submerged villages, washed away vast tracts of farmland and destroyed roads and bridges.
But the Red Cross said the spread of water- and vector-borne diseases was a concern as water levels begin to fall in some parts of Assam and Manipur states, and people in government relief camps return to their homes in low-lying areas.
“Ongoing heavy rain and a third wave of flooding continues to submerge villages in both states and bring misery and desperation,” said Vijay Kumar Ummidi from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in India.
“But in some districts, floodwaters are starting to recede, exposing damaged toilets, contaminated water sources and standing water that is certain to attract more mosquitoes,” he said in a statement late on Thursday.
Red Cross workers added that they were already recording an increase in diseases in Manipur state which borders Myanmar.
“We are already seeing a rise in cases of malaria, Japanese encephalitis and other vector-borne diseases, as well as infections from unsafe drinking, cooking and bathing water,” said Amul Kumar from the Indian Red Cross in Manipur.
India’s monsoon rains from June to September are vital for its agriculture, which makes up 18 percent of its gross domestic product and provides employment for almost half its 1.3 billion population.
But in many states, the rains frequently cause rivers such as the Brahmaputra and their tributaries to overflow and flooding forces millions into temporary camps, destroys homes and exposes people to diseases such as malaria and diarrhoea.
Torrential rains this year have disrupted the lives of around 2 million people in the oil- and tea-rich state of Assam alone. Many remain in camps or makeshift shelters along river banks. Some are returning to their ruined homes and crops.
The Red Cross said people required basic aid ranging from tarpaulins and soap to kitchen utensils as well as temporary toilets, water treatment and storage systems, disinfectants and mosquito nets.
“The needs are enormous, so we are focusing on the health and wellbeing of the poorest of the poor, those who have lost everything, and single moms, the elderly and other vulnerable people who are truly struggling to get by,” said Ummidi.
(Reporting by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla, Editing by Emma Batha)