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Severity of Bihar floods intensifies

For immediate release
4 September 2008

Severity of Bihar floods intensifies: Five million now homeless and children face measles threat

Save the Children reports that children forced to leave their homes because of flood in Bihar, India are now facing severe health threats. The Indian health department has confirmed several cases of diarrhoea and there are reports of an outbreak of measles in the relief camps.

This is six times the number of people that were made homeless by the cyclone in Myanmar four months ago and 7.5 times the number of people in India that were made homeless after the tsunami in 2004.

The scale of the disaster becomes increasingly serious as the number of people forced to leave their homes by the floods rises to five million, including three million children.

Some of these children will be living in temporary camps until April 2009 following an announcement by the Indian government that the breach in the river Kosi will not be repaired for seven months.

Several areas will remain water logged until next year meaning children will be unable to return home, farmers will not be able to get back to work and damaged schools are unlikely to be repaired or rebuilt.

Thomas Chandy, head of Save the Children in India, said: "The reported death toll is not high, but the number of people affected by this flooding is on an unimaginable scale. We are facing a huge task and desperately need more money to enable us to reach more of those children who are living in terrible conditions. We must act now to prevent the death-toll rising further as children succumb to disease, hunger or exposure while they wait."

Save the Children has launched an appeal for the children of Bihar and has already begun responding to the emergency by giving out food, water purification tablets, tarpaulins for shelter and medical assistance.

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