India: Monsoon Floods and Dengue Fever

It was only two months ago that I blogged about how the impoverished families involved in our humanitarian project in India were suffering from heat and drought. Fields had dried up. Drinking water was being brought in by the government. And family members were suffering from medical conditions brought on by living in tiny windowless concrete rooms that function like an oven in those conditions. It particularly impacted the town of Khajuraho and our families there from the farming caste – next to the lowest in India’s still functioning caste system. The India Group project paid for medical care, bottled water and rent for one of our displaced families in addition to our other regular education and health funding work.

Then the monsoon season arrived and excessive rainfall over the past week has caused the Ganges River and its tributaries to flood impacting our families who live in Varanasi. The families we support there are from the boatmen caste whose entire livelihood depends on the Ganges river.

India flooding

Today’s edition of The International Business Times reports:

Officials said at least 17 people have died in Madhya Pradesh, 14 in Bihar and nine in Uttar Pradesh over the weekend because of drowning, electrocution or injuries from collapsed houses. The Ganges flooded many residential areas of the city of Allahabad, forcing people to move to safer areas. About 12,000 people were evacuated from low-lying surrounding villages, a government statement said.

In the Hindu holy town of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, flooding forced a halt to cremations at a main riverfront area. Devout Hindus bring dead family members to Varanasi in the belief that being cremated there frees their soul from the cycle of death and rebirth. In Bihar, 600,000 people were evacuated and the army and air force are on standby because more rain is forecast, said a disaster management official.

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When I was in Varansi in February I joined a morning community yoga session at sunrise every day from this location now covered by Ganges flooding.

In Delhi where we also support a group of families, dengue fever has broken out in the slum where they live and several children and adults in our families have been hospitalized in the nearby Catholic hospital that works with our project providing medical care. Dengue fever is a mosquito transmitted disease and the standing water in the slums as well as humidity in Delhi make for prime breeding conditions for mosquito species who spread the disease.

It sometimes feels like nature is working against our families. As the experts have been predicting, it’s the most impoverished countries that will bear the brunt of climate change and within those countries the most impoverished of their citizens will be most susceptible.

If you wish to help, you can donate online at The India Group.

India: Waiting For The Train With A Cow

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This is a train station in India. Yes, that’s a cow in the foreground snoozing among sleeping passengers. My fellow board members from The India Project (I’ve posted about my work with them here, here and here) have been in the country over the past few weeks checking up on the families we support. Has the drought subsided? Mostly, but in Khajuraho where many of the families live the crops were destroyed and they have no other means of support. How are they coping medically? There were a variety of heat related medical issues and without our medical support families would have gone untreated. Are all the children back attending school after the holiday break? Yes. And with luck our first student will graduate from high school this year.

We back here in the states have been making decisions as updates have been coming in – authorizing rent for a family who was evicted from their home, medical coverage for one new baby and another on the way and struggling with ideas to help the adults become self-sufficient wage earners in an economy that discriminates against their caste and has little work for anyone who is illiterate.

If you’re interested in finding out more about our project and donating to our work, the link is here.

The in-India team sent this photo of their transportation around the country. India’s train system is almost entirely government owned. It’s the third largest rail system in the world serving 7500 stations. On any given day 20 million people are traveling by train; most of them in the class called General Compartment. There’s no air conditioning in those cars. Wooden benches. And they pack passengers in forcing them to sit in aisles and luggage racks if the benches are full. I suspect the cow isn’t traveling anywhere; the train station was just a good place to people watch.