Churches Remain United in Asia Flood Response

Members of the worldwide coalition Action by Churches Together International are continuing to save lives as they bring aid relief and assistance to vast regions of central and south Asia hit by severe flooding.

"While the massive amount of water is slowly withdrawing, the damage and emergency need is showing its true colors," said Arne Grieg Riisn├Žs with ACT member Norwegian Church Aid (NCA), speaking from Bangladesh.

The ACT coalition members have made the most vulnerable their aid priority, particularly those in out-of-the-way communities. Thousands of crops have been destroyed and homes washed away.

"When you lose everything it is very hard to recover," said Sushant Agrawal, the director of Churches Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA). "People have lost their houses and belongings. The standing crops are gone. The flood has destroyed the total source of their livelihood."

Many families are also struggling to cope amid food shortages.

"We are constantly hungry. I do not have enough food to feed my children," said Shifa Begam from Jithkar, a village near the Harirampur-district in Bangladesh.

ACT members are the only humanitarian support in the village, where they are running a food distribution operation.

Begam was one of the villagers to receive the food aid. With tears in her eyes, she received from the ACT members a large food parcel containing rice, cooking oil, lentils and medicines.

The ACT operation across the Asian continent will reach 270,000 with food and clean water in the immediate response phase, and housing reconstruction and future risk reduction in the later stages.

Director of Lutheran World Service India, Neville Pradhan, stressed the importance of risk reduction in the later stages of recovery.

"We leave people at the edge again if we do not begin to address the root causes of the disaster and do disaster risk reduction. If we invest in the longer term measures we make people and communities less vulnerable," he said.

Beyond Bangladesh and India, ACT partners are at work China, Nepal and Pakistan distributing essential food and non-food items.

Agrawal, who is also the moderator of the ACT International Executive Committee, appealed to the global church body to unite in its response to the floods.

"The situation is pretty alarming. This is a time when the global church must come together and stand with the poor, socially excluded and most vulnerable."