Catholic Relief Services is providing emergency relief to thousands of people in a remote state in Northeast India, where the worst monsoon floods in a decade have killed more than 120 people and forced about six million people to flee their homes.
Shanti Das, a 69-year-old widow, remembers waking up in the middle of the night to the screams of neighbors. “It was about 3:00 a.m. when I heard people yelling in the streets outside and saw villagers running towards the raised embankment of the nearby river,” she says. Shanti quickly joined them, fleeing with only a few pieces of clothing and a box of personal treasures. Within minutes, flash flooding had dumped three feet of water inside her home and about five feet of water onto village roads. Shanti lost nearly everything—her land, her ducks and goats, and her ability to make a living.
Assam state, which borders Bhutan and Bangladesh, has been hit with torrential monsoon rains during the past few weeks, causing the mighty Brahmaputra Riverand its tributaries to break their banks, flooding towns and villages. Thousands of homes have been destroyed and more than 500,000 people are being sheltered in relief camps. Major roads and rail systems in the area are under water.
CRS is working with local and government partners to supply safe drinking water and hygiene kits to more than 6,000 homes in three districts of Assam.
John Shumlansky, CRS’ country representative in India, says, “We know from past experience that water-borne diseases are a huge concern when flooding strikes. So we’re focusing on providing people in desperate situations with essentials—clean water and basic hygiene kits—in the hopes that they’ll be able to stay healthy until it’s safe for them to go home.”
Shanti is grateful for the kit she received, and hopes the items will keep her free from disease. In the meantime, she’s staying in a temporary shelter on anriver embankment while she waits for the floodwaters to recede.
The wet season, which runs from June to September, is vital for India’s farmers, but also claims many lives from flooding every year.