South Asia Monsoon Crisis: An Opportunity to Learn and Prepare

Is the South Asia monsoon a harbinger of things to come and will we be ready next time around? The perennial monsoon floods that have devastated parts of Bangladesh, India, and Nepal are said to be the worst in 30 years. The death toll has surpassed 2,200, made over twenty million people homeless and resulted in massive crop failure, ensuring hunger, poverty and homelessness for millions of men, women and children in South Asia for some time to come.

The flooding is particularly dangerous for children. With many completely cut off from clean water. Ingesting flood water was unavoidable, and drinking and cooking with flood water laden with contaminants has resulted in widespread diarrhea. Diarrhea is one of the most deadly and common killers of the poor.

Aside from the three nations impacted from the initial monsoon, Pakistan has also been hit, though a bit later, with 22 deaths reported. The monsoon season goes through September and more flooding is expected. Some criticism has been lodged against the governments of South Asia, particularly India, for not having been prepared for an entirely predictable situation.

This years flooding could and should be a wake up call. With global warming now an obvious reality and the gradual melt of the Himalayas, the rising sea level displacement of people is a fact and governments not preparing for it can only be construed as cruel, selfish, or foolhardy.

The U.S., as the richest and most developed country in the world, has a moral and humanitarian obligation to the poor regions of the world. The U.S. should, of course, scrap their “war on terror” and their militarism that only benefits the arms industry and attempts to control oil and other resources outside of the United States.

The war on terror should be replaced with a Global War On Poverty. A part of a Global war on poverty would be troubleshooting predictable events like the South Asia monsoons so that we would be fully prepared ahead of time. And counter to the current U.S. penchant for unilateralism, the new Global War On poverty would involve all effected countries in dialogue and preparatory activities for natural disasters. Other areas of a Global war on poverty would be hunger/starvation related issues, education, agriculture and micro-lending.

The regions hardest hit in India are the states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Kerala and Orissa. Forty percent of Bangladesh was flooded as well as the southern part of Nepal. The apparent Saints in the South Asia monsoon have been the varied aid agencies that have responded to the disaster. Oxfam, AmeriCares, World Vision, among other aid agencies, are doing their best under under all too often dire circumstances.

Oxfam has been providing water and shelter while AmeriCares has been providing water purification tablets and medicines to combat dengue fever, another flood related killer. These and other aid agencies have spread across the flood area, but more is needed and will be needed. Related websites that I encourage people to check out are: Relief Web,
Oxfam, AmeriCares, and World; specify what project you want your money to go to if you choose to donate. There are of course other aid organizations but whatever one you choose you must do your homework as some are less legitimate than others.

Brian McAfee lives in Michigan and can be reached at: Read other articles by Brian.