North India brought to its knees: Caritas activates relief (Photo)

Throughout South Asia the death toll has risen to 660 deaths; of these, 100 in Bihar and Assam. The Catholic association has carried out inspections with other partners and is beginning to distribute first aid kits to around 7 thousand families.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - North India is on its knees: more than 100 people were killed in Assam and Bihar due to the violent monsoon rains that have been falling since the beginning of the month and nearly 12 million are displaced in the two states, according to updated data shared with AsiaNews by Caritas India.

The picture is dramatic: 90% of families in Assam and 50% of those in Bihar have no drinking water and all water resources (wells and manual pumps) are contaminated. Fr. Paul Moonjely, executive director of the Catholic association, appealed: "I appeal to all people of good will, come forward and help us support the victims affected by massive floods".

The heavy rainfall is devastating not only India but all of South Asia. The official numbers speak of 660 deaths and millions of people forced to leave their homes, trying to save everything possible. Like Mrs. Bimala Brahma, 65, who lived in the village of Dwimugori, district of Chirang (Assam): "I had a small piece of land where I cultivated rice. Now everything is submerged ". The woman is devastated by the pain and the loss of her only means of subsistence: having been widowed for some years, she lived alone in a small house, which was crumpled by the fury of the waters.

Caritas India conducted a survey in the area in collaboration with the Christian Aid and Adra NGOs, and with the support of members of the Inter-Agency Group (consortium of national and international humanitarian agencies) and local officials of the governments of the two Indian states. The objective of the evaluation was to identify the primary needs of the affected populations and start the first aid to deal with the emergency.

The scenario that emerged is bleak: 8,246 villages are under water due to the overflow of the Brahmaputra and Ganges rivers, which have broken their banks and flooded 30 districts in Assam and 12 in Bihar; 31% of families in Assam and 11% in Bihar no longer have a home.

With regards agriculture, the main sector of employment in the region, in Assam alone 179 thousand hectares of harvest were lost; for the State of Bihar there are no data available on the damage caused by the floods, since different areas are still inaccessible even to state inspectors. What is certain, points out Caritas, is that entire Dalit and Adivasi communities (the indigenous groups that inhabit the territory) have lost the "kharif" ("autumn" in Arabic), typical of the monsoon season. This will have serious consequences for their food security and survival capacity.

The educational institutions have suffered considerable damage and almost all the schools have become shelters for displaced persons. According to Caritas, the most affected sector is that of childhood: not only have school exams been lost due to the rains, but above all children need safe centers so as not to become victims of mental and physical abuse and human traffickers.

Caritas surveys have revealed that 44% of families in Assam and 10% in Bihar have immediate need for tents, non-food items such as tarpaulins, sheets, blankets, mosquito nets, ropes and mats. They also serve drinking water, baths and soaps for personal hygiene in order to avoid the risk of disease infection.

Fr. Moonjely assures: "Caritas is working in the field, has carried out an assessment of the situation and started distributing aid to 5 thousand families in Assam and 2 thousand in Bihar. In the coming days we will reach many other families, to whom we will guarantee sustenance and shelter ". (A.C.F.)