Pope: World Must Aid South Asia Flood Victims

The head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, has urged the international community to provide immediate assistance to the millions of people displaced by South Asia's worst flooding in decades.

In addition, the pope offered a prayer Sunday for the hundreds who have died in the disaster.

The Associated Press reports that at least 2,120 people have died this year in a particularly calamitous monsoon season in South Asia – double the number killed last year. Some 600 have perished in the past two weeks alone and on Saturday, officials said at least 40 people died.

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"I urge the church community to pray for the victims and support all initiatives of solidarity to lessen the suffering of so many people," Benedict said, addressing crowds gathered at his summer residence outside Rome.

"May there not be a lack of immediate and generous support from the international community to these brothers and sisters of ours."

Survivors from the floods have complained that help has yet to reach them, while local politicians and officials have been caught in the act of stealing meager stocks of food.

Further problems have developed where flood waters are receding, as animal carcasses rot, sewage festers and mosquitoes breed in filthy water, spreading disease among survivors.

Although the receding monsoon floods in India have paved the way for aid agencies and authorities to brainstorm and work for the rebuilding of people's lives, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF have warned that stagnant waters are "a lethal breeding ground" for diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.

"Disease is a major threat, starting with colds and fevers from exposure and living in the open for an extended amount of time. Children are also suffering from diarrhea, and the fear of other water borne diseases is very real," said Reena Samuel, the communications coordinator for Christian aid group World Vision, who is on the ground to help with the relief efforts.

Christian aid agencies worldwide – including World Vision, Christian Aid, Tearfund, the Evangelical Fellowship of India Commission on Relief (EFICOR), and Canadian Food for the Hunger International – and their partners in various Indian states and regions have been collectively working full-fledged in the devastated areas.

Groups such as Christian Aid and the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) have also launched appeals pledging extra funds.

Christian Today correspondent Bei Chatlai Beita in New Delhi contributed to this article.

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