UN agencies increase relief effort in South Asia after devastating floods

14 August 2007United Nations humanitarian agencies continue to step up their relief efforts in the wake of the recent deadly floods across South Asia, distributing food and emergency supplies, vaccinating against infectious diseases and launching public awareness campaigns on the importance of using clean water. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have so far distributed 90 tons of high-protein biscuits in Bangladesh and plan to deliver another 24 tons this week, UN spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters today. In Nepal, also struck by this year’s exceptionally heavy monsoon rains, UNICEF has provided more than 2,000 mosquito nets. In addition, the agency has delivered radio broadcasts in the country’s four regional languages on the need for water purification to prevent the outbreak of diseases. An estimated 45 million people across India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan have been affected by the flooding, with many of them forced to leave their homes. At least 2,200 people have been killed. UNICEF is distributing water purification packs, rehydration packs and water jerry cans in India, where it is also conducting a large-scale vaccination campaign to prevent an outbreak of chicken pox. The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has already announced that it is increasing its support of South Asian governments as they respond to the flooding, including by drawing from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). Elsewhere, in Sudan, which has been hit by its own recent floods, OCHA now estimates that at least 365,000 people have been affected, and the number of people requiring food assistance is also likely to rise. WFP is providing food rations to some 38,500 people in northern Sudan, the worst-affected region of the country, but also to more than 5,000 people in the south of the vast African nation. The World Health Organization (WHO) has pre-positioned medical supplies in several locations in anticipation of disease outbreaks and has also prepared a plan to prevent further outbreaks of diarrhoea.

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