An Inside Look at South Asians Doubly Hit by Climate Disasters and COVID-19

Even as people in the region continue to battle COVID-19, massive floods have worsened poverty and escalated loss of livelihood, particularly in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
September 29, 2020, 4:52am
climate, floods, south asia, India, Bangladesh, COVID-19
Jorina begum, 60, returned to her house which is submerged under floodwater.  Severe floods struck Bangladesh during the last week of June 2020, which prolonged and intensified sufferings of 5.4 million people in the northern, central and north-eastern parts of the country. Photo by AJ Ghani/IFRC.

At least 25 million people in South Asia have been affected by floods, droughts or storms and COVID-19 worldwide, according to an analysis by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre.

Even as people in the region continue to battle COVID-19, massive floods have worsened poverty and escalated loss of livelihood, particularly in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

In Bangladesh and India, heavy rains leading to overflowing of Brahmaputra and Ganges—the two Himalayan rivers—is the primary cause of floods.

In both the countries, many people have also been flooded three times in the past four years.

The analysis, which quantifies the overlapping vulnerability of communities, shows that out of 132 identified unique extreme weather events that have occurred so far in 2020, 92 have overlapped with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In north Bangladesh, homes and crops have been destroyed four times this year. Some of the worst floods in decades followed a cyclone that had already caused widespread devastation.

In July this year, one third of Bangladesh was submerged in water during floods affecting around 5.4 million of the country’s 160 million people.

In the northeastern Indian state of Assam, the flood situation is grim at present due to the third wave of flood. More than 5.6 million people are reeling under impact of flood across the state, a result of the rising water levels of the Brahmaputra river.

The administration has set up 43 relief camps in flood-affected districts.

Over 38,000 domestic animals have also been displaced in Assam.

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Mossammet Khadiza, 19, with her two sons, Mohammed Romzan and Rabbi, under the tarpaulin provided by Bangladesh Red Crescent. Photo by AJ Ghani/IFRC

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Women who have lost their homes wait in the rain for relief at Phutimari, Baligoan, in the northeastern Indian state of Assam. Photo by Rohan Chakrvarty/IFRC

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A boy announces a community meeting for people affected by the floods so they can receive relief supplies at Burdubatup, Bhuragaon, an area in the northeastern Indian state of Assam that was submerged for weeks by one of the country’s biggest rivers, the Brahmaputra. Photo by Rohan Chakrvarty/IFRC

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Sumon, 35, took out a loan of 100,000 Bangladesh taka from a local NGO to build a new house only four months ago. Now that his house is ruined and he'd be forced to build a new one once the water level drops, he will still have to repay the loan. Photo by AJ Ghani/IFRC

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Asharam, 60 unpacks relief items after returning to his home that had been completely submerged in Mahangu Pure village, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Photo by Rohan Chakrvarty/IFRC