Flood Devastation in India Worse Than Most Realize

Post a Comment » Written on October 13th, 2008     
Filed under: News
BIHAR, INDIA (October 13, 2008) – A team of about 10 men from the Hindustani Covenant Church (HCC) recently traveled nearly 1,700 miles to help the victims of flooding that has devastated much of Bihar, the poorest state in India. The men will serve there for three months.

“Almost every day they travel to the worst affected areas to distribute emergency kits, distribute food and water, do counseling, carry on medical clinics and drill wells,” says Dave Husby, Asia regional coordinator for the Department of World Mission of the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC).

“The task is overwhelming,” Husby observes. “When they return to their rented house, they sleep on thin sheets placed on the floor.”

The men’s compassion is representative of how the HCC has responded to the crisis, which is far worse than most people realize, Husby says. No one knows for certain how many people died, but more than three million people in the northern part of Bihar have been homeless since the flooding began in mid August.

“Desperate mothers are selling their children en masse to traffickers.”

“The government appears to have done good work, but there are too many people affected to be able to care for them all,” Husby reports. “HCC is working in 21 villages where no other NGOs (non-governmental organizations) are working.”

Husby recently toured the area with HCC Moderator Steven David. “We saw several large camps with thousands of people crowded into them, but apparently there are many more—and much larger—camps that we did not see,” Husby says. Click here to see photos of the flooding.

The HCC had drilled a well at one of the sites that was providing potable drinking water for a large number of people. The church has drilled five bore wells out of 15 that are planned. They are waiting for the water to recede further to complete the other wells.

“We visited one remote village by boat,” Husby reports. “The people there had either never left or had returned after being in a camp. Many were worried that their belongings would be stolen, so they have returned to their homes.”

The villagers must live on rooftops, however, because their houses remain flooded. “When we talked with the people, they pleaded for more food and water,” Husby says.

A large town several miles away with a once-thriving market remains a ghost town because it is cut off from the outside world, Husby says.

Children have become victims of more than the flooding. According to one Indian newspaper, desperate mothers “are selling their children en masse to traffickers.”

Men who are able to work have left the region looking for employment, leaving women in vulnerable situations in an estimated 3,000 crowded relief camps. They have sold their children for as little as five dollars, Husby says.

Recently, officials stopped 1,500 children from being smuggled, according to the head of India’s Child Labor Commission. He told the newspaper, “While the older children were taken back to the relief camps, there were some kids who were so young that they could not recall the names of their parents or the village to which they belonged.” They were taken to shelter homes.

The HCC is partnering with the “Break the Chains” initiative developed by the Department of Women Ministries.

Financial help is desperately needed by Covenant World Relief to respond to the needs in this area, notes Jim Sundholm, CWR director. Those desiring to financially contribute to the relief effort can do so in at least two ways – both by check and through an online donation. Click here to donate online by credit card. To donate by check, make the check payable to Covenant World Relief, earmarked for India flood relief, and mail it to Covenant World Relief, 5101 N. Francisco Avenue, Chicago, IL, 60625.

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