Nearly 16 million children are “in urgent need of life-saving support” as a result of the catastrophic flooding that has ravaged South Asia, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund.
“Children have lost their homes, schools and even friends and loved ones,” UNICEF South Asia Director Jean Gough said in a statement. Gough said conditions could worsen as the torrential monsoon rains that have flooded the region continue.
UNICEF said the devastating floods have claimed nearly 1,300 lives and affected more than 45 million people since mid-August.
Flooding has occurred for two months in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, submerging hundreds of villages and forcing tens of thousands of people into relief camps.
The relief organization said more than 8 million people have been affected by the flooding in Bangladesh, including some 3 million children. Nearly 700,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed and almost 2,300 schools sustained damage.
The floods affected about 1.7 million people in Nepal, including some 353,000 who have been displaced from their homes. Nearly 2,000 schools have been damaged or demolished, impacting the education of almost 255,000 children.
Four states in India have suffered extensive damage, affecting over 31 million residents, including nearly 12.5 million children. An estimated 805,000 homes were damaged or destroyed. The education of almost one million students was disrupted after the floods damaged some 15,500 schools.
As experts assessed the damage in South Asia, they said it became increasingly clear the South Asian governments were poorly prepared for the annual monsoon rains.
The government in India, where the flooding has hit hardest, has focused primarily on relief and to a lesser extent on prevention and early warning systems.
India’s federal auditor released a report in July concluding most states have not identified flood-prone areas, hindering the ability to prepare for floods. The report also said tens of millions of dollars in flood management funds remain unspent.
But some disaster management officials contend it is unfair to criticize the governments, given the magnitude of this year’s floods.
“If you get a whole year’s rain in one to two days, how will you handle it?” asked Anirudh Kumar of the disaster management department in the east Indian state of Bihar. “No preparation will work,” he added.