Kerala floods explained
20 August 2018
What has happened?
The unrelenting rain which began in July and spiked in early August has caused unprecedented flooding and landslides across the Southwestern state of Kerala, India.
In the worst floods in a century, torrential rainfall has left over 300 dead and hundreds of thousands homeless, with many still stranded, running out of clean water and food.
The Indian military launched rescue efforts to reach those communities who had been cut off for several days and helped to rescue over 20,000 people.
Now, receding flood waters are giving hope to the hundreds of thousands who are now homeless, but many families who have lost everything now need emergency aid and to be protected against disease outbreaks in relief camps.
What are the needs of people who have been affected by the floods?
Giovanna Reda, Head of Humanitarian Programmes for Asia region, said:
“Unprecedented monsoon rains in Kerala have washed away whole villages and left communities homeless. Crops and livestock have been destroyed. Many families arrive at relief camps with only the clothes they are wearing. They have lost everything.
“In addition to providing emergency assistance such a clean water, food and shelter, we must look at the preventing outbreaks of diseases like cholera, which are likely to affect this extremely vulnerable group.”
How is CAFOD responding?
CAFOD is supporting our partner Caritas India, who are already responding to the crisis with a project that will provide food and essentials such as hygiene products to over 32,000 of the most vulnerable and marginalised people in two districts of Kerala.
Following updated reports from across the region, Caritas India is now looking to scale up their response to reach more than 40,000 people in six districts of the Kerala State.
Fr Paul Moonjely, Executive Director of Caritas India, said:
“Our teams are reaching the most isolated areas where the poorest and most vulnerable Dalit and tribal people live.
“There’s need for food, clothes, beds, mosquito nets, medicines, drinking water supplies and temporary shelters. Sanitation and hygiene has been severely compromised and the risk of epidemics is at an all-time high."
Alongside the distribution of food, blankets, mosquito nets, and hygiene items, Caritas India is also providing information on hygiene ‘best practice’ to the affected communities to help stop the spread of disease.
Giovanna Reda, Head of Humanitarian Programmes for Asia region, continued:
“Even for those humanitarian aid agencies on the frontline, like Caritas India, providing emergency aid is challenging – many are cut off not just by flood waters but lack of power and limited availability of mobile networks.”
What will be the longer-term needs of the community?
Over the next few months, it is important to help communities not only rebuild their homes but to work alongside communities to re-establish local economies.
Executive Director of Caritas India, Fr Paul Moonjely, continued:
“Farmers, daily wage workers and agricultural labourers won't earn anything for the next two to three months. Thousands have no homes to go back to.
“After all the initial needs are met, there is a need for longer-term rehabilitation, reconstruction and livelihood support for affected families.”
Why is there severe flooding in India?
Although August is typically monsoon season in the region, the incessant rainfall has led to the worst flooding seen in the region in a century. It is widely accepted that climate change brings an increased risk of floods and could have a role to play in the severity of the monsoon rains.
How can I help?
CAFOD and the Caritas network are providing emergency relief to affected communities.
Giovanna Reda, Head of Humanitarian Programmes for Asia region, says:
“While emergency relief will be the main concern over the coming days, the journey to recovery will be long and we must look at helping people to rebuild not only their homes but their lives.”