Tens of thousands of flood survivors in India’s remote north-east 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 north-eastern 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.
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,” Vijay Kumar Ummidi from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in India said.
“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.
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% 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 two 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. Reuters