How floods have robbed millions of Indian children of food, shelter, education
New Delhi, Sep 4: Talk about any war or natural disaster, it's the children who are the worst affected in terms of deaths, loss of parents, homes and education and lack of access to food and drinking water, to name a few.
As several parts of India are still reeling under floods, including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Assam, according to an estimate millions of children have been affected by floods in the country, this year.
As per a report by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), in India, four states in the northern part of the country have been extensively affected by the flooding, affecting over 31 million people including 12.33 million children.
Some 805,183 houses are either partially or fully damaged and 15,455 schools have been damaged, disrupting the education of nearly one million students. Further heavy rains in Mumbai resulted in at least five deaths by drowning and three people including two children died due to house collapse.
The figures cited by the UNICEF highlighted only the plight of children in the northern states of the country. Child rights activists fear that the all India figure of flood-affected children could go as high as 20 million as several children have died and become homeless in Assam and West Bengal too.
In the affected states in India, the state governments following rescue operations are conducting relief, rehabilitation and recovery operations. The UNICEF, at the request of the state governments, is providing multi-sectoral planning and coordination support in the three worst affected states of Assam, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Over 9.8 million people in Bihar have been given lifesaving information on topics such as safe drinking water and handwashing, UNICEF said.
Meanwhile, the UNICEF said that about 16 million children across India, Bangladesh and Nepal are in urgent need of life-saving support due to "catastrophic" flooding in the three South Asian countries.
"Millions of children have seen their lives swept away by these devastating floods" said Jean Gough, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia. "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.
Weeks of torrential monsoon rains and catastrophic flooding in Nepal, India, and Bangladesh have devastated the lives of millions of children and families. The UNICEF estimated that almost 16 million children and their families are in urgent need of life-saving support. Since mid-August, there have been at least 1,288 reported deaths in these three countries due to floods.
Many areas remain inaccessible due to damage to roads, bridges, railways and airports. The most urgent needs for children are clean water, hygiene supplies to prevent the spread of disease, food supplies and safe places in evacuation centres for children to play, the UN agency said.
The UNICEF is on the ground working in close coordination with respective governments and humanitarian partners from three countries to scale up its responses and respond to immediate needs of affected children and their families.
"Massive damage to school infrastructure and supplies also mean hundreds of thousands of children may miss weeks or months of school" said Gough. "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."
In Bangladesh alone, more than 8 million people have been affected by flooding, including around 3 million children. An estimated 696,169 houses have been damaged or destroyed and 2,292 primary and community schools have been damaged by high water. There have already been more than 13,035 cases of water-borne diseases in the country.
In Nepal, 1.7 million people, including 680,000 children, have been affected with 352,738 displaced from their homes. More than 185,126 homes have been damaged or destroyed in addition to 1,958 schools, affecting the education of 253,605 children.
"The flood situation in several parts of India is improving. Now, the main task before the government is the rehabilitation of flood-hit children. They need home, food, drinking water and schools to continue with their education. Otherwise, most of these children become labourers and leave education midway because of the twin scourge of poverty and floods," said Nagasimha Rao, a child rights activist from Bengaluru.