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Thu

23

Aug

2007

South Asia Monsoon Crisis Presents An Opportunity To Learn And Prepare For Future Crisis
Thursday, 23 August 2007 00:33
by Brian McAfee.

Is the South Asia monsoon a harbinger of things to come and will we be ready the next time around? The perennial monsoon floods that have devastated parts of Bangladesh, India, and Nepal are said to be the worst in thirty years. The death toll has surpassed 2,200. Meanwhile, the event made over twenty million people homeless and has 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 related flooding is particularly dangerous for children. With many completely cut off from clean water, ingesting flood water is unavoidable. This being so, the drinking and the cooking with water laden with assorted kinds of contaminants has resulted in widespread diarrhea. Diarrhea is one of the most deadly and common killers of materially poor people, especially the young ones!

Aside from the three nations impacted from the initial monsoon, Pakistan has also been hit, although a bit later, with twenty-two deaths reported so far. The monsoon season goes through September and more flooding is expected. All this in mind, some criticism has been lodged against the governments of South Asia, particularly India, for not having been prepared for an entirely predictable occurrence.

All considered, this year's flood could and should be a wake up call. With global warming now an obvious reality and the gradual melt of the Himalayas happening, the displacement of people, caused by rising waters, is more difficult than ever with which to deal. Therefore, governments not preparing for it can only be construed as cruel, selfish, or foolhardy.

Meanwhile, the US, as the richest and most developed country in the world, has a moral and humanitarian obligation to help the poor regions of the world. As such, the US should scrap its "war on terror" and its militarism that only benefits the arms industry, while solely representing attempts to control oil and other resources outside of the US.

Instead, the war on terror should be replaced with a Global War on Poverty. In addition, part of this Global War on Poverty should have as a goal the troubleshooting of predictable events like the South Asia monsoons, so that we would be fully prepared ahead of time. Furthermore, an objective such as this could counter the current U.S. penchant for unilateralism. This new Global War On Poverty, meanwhile, could involve all effected countries in dialogue and preparatory activities for further natural disasters. Other areas of a Global War on Poverty initiative to be addressed could include 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 all too often dire circumstances, including those involving being short on supplies.

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 assistance will be needed in order to address the large numbers of people impacted over such a large expanse of land.

Related web sites that I encourage people to check out are: www.reliefweb.int, www.oxfam.org, www.americares.org, and www.worldvision.org. Moreover, please specify as to which particular project represents the preferred one to which you would want your money to go if you choose to donate. There are, of course, other aid organizations. However, whatever one that you choose, you must do your "homework" as some are less legitimate than others. In any case, please do try to become involved in some manner or other (even if it is just to spread the word of this traumatic situation) as it is quite a devastating event and of utmost importance to tackle!
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