At least 123 dead in Afghanistan flash floods, families cut off from help

Saturday, 26 April 2014 14:27 GMT

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Flash floods are a terrifying experience in broad daylight. A huge body of water with strong currents sweeping through, where hanging on is the only way to stay alive.

It’s hard to imagine how much worse it would be in the dark. It was what children and families in northern Afghanistan had to suffer when floods swept through their homes and villages while they were asleep two nights ago, devastating houses, killing tens of thousands of livestock and putting approximately 50,000 people in need of help. Initial numbers show at least 500 families displaced in Jawjzan and 300 in Faryab, but we expect that number to rise significantly as the government and aid agencies begin to understand the impact of the floods.

So far, at least 123 people have been reported dead with many more missing, a large percentage of them children, who are much smaller and lighter and more easily swept away by strong currents.

Save the Children’s teams in Balkh, Jawjzan, Sar-e-Pul and Faryab launched into action immediately – trying to assess the affected areas with the government and other agencies. Relief goods in warehouses have been activated for immediate distribution of life-saving blankets, water and bread as well hygiene and household items that are likely lost in the floods.

The assessments and distribution will not be easy. The flooding has cut off populations from the help they need as rescue workers and aid agencies try to negotiate their way in. Children could be without clean water, hot food, blankets and shelter for days. The situation, however, remains unclear as it is hard to access the most affected areas and communication signals are poor.

Children in these areas often already live in poverty and are vulnerable. The impact of this flood could significantly worsen their situation. With losses in food stores, crops and livestock, it could lead to a spike in malnutrition in an area with already high malnutrition rates. This could have permanent impact on a child’s mental and physical development, further decreasing their chances of breaking the poverty cycle.

The next few days will be critical. Children and women are always the most vulnerable in any disaster and bear the brunt of poor living conditions in the aftermath of it. Contaminated and stagnant water can cause diseases. Stress and overcrowded conditions with little privacy can lead to an increase in violence and abuse.

An estimated 30,000 children have been affected in these flash floods. Save the Children staff have been working around the clock to reach the most vulnerable and worst-affected children and families with the necessary assistance.