Flooding brings fear of malaria

By July 16, 2012

India (MNN) — Some waters are finally starting to recede after three weeks of flooding in Assam, India, but receding waters brings a new challenge: disease.

Daniel Punnose with Gospel for Asia says, "This is monsoon season, so rains keep coming and it doesn't stop for a couple more months. But the waters are receding in some places. And what they're saying is: people are really, really afraid of malaria right now, because in the northeast part of India, you've already got problems with malaria. Some of our brothers have gotten malaria 15-16 times. It's pretty normal in those areas."

As water stands, says Punnose, cholera is also an increasing threat to the hundreds of thousands of people who are trapped in the flood's path.

GFA has a number of Bridge of Hope centers and partner churches in the Assam area, many of which are now under water. Although monsoon rain is always expected, few in the region were anticipating the Brahmaputra River to overflow as it did in late June. As a result, 80 villages were engulfed, displacing 80,000 people and affecting 900,000 total.

The hurdles of potential disease, hunger, dehydration, exposure, and other life threats are heightened by Assam's location.

"This is tribal area, this is not in the city," explains Punnose. "So no one's going to come rescue them; there's no insurance that kicks in, there's no coast guard that comes and rescues people. They're kind of just left on their own. They lost their farms; they lost their animals. They lost their income, they lost their housing. The kids can't go to school. Everything stops."

The crisis has thrown GFA workers into overdrive. Punnose says the good news is that since they have churches and Bridge of Hope centers in Assam, there are at least workers ready and willing to distribute aid. On the other hand, ministry at those locations has come to a screeching halt until waters recede completely.

GFA is mostly looking at the disaster as an opportunity, though. Punnose says flood victims have all congregated to higher ground. GFA is taking canoes, row boats, and any other means necessary to get to these clusters with food, blankets, clean water, and other preventative aid.

The distribution becomes a good way to show people that Christ has not forgotten them.

"It's not like we pray for these kinds of things to happen, but only when these things happen do we get the opportunity to practically, tangibly, help people besides sharing just a message of God's love with them," says Punnose. "A lot of them are from the Dalit background — or lower caste background, so no one is going to help them. So when they say, ‘Why are you doing this?' We tell them, ‘Because we love Jesus.'"

The need is great, but so is the opportunity. You can be a part of helping with both. First and foremost, you can pray: for safety, for weather conditions, for resources, and for open doors. Secondly, you can give. GFA has a fund set up specifically to tend to this urgent need.

Finally, you can spread the word. Few people are aware of the Assam flooding, even if it has affected nearly 1 million people. Get the word out through Facebook, e-mail, phone, or daily conversation so that more people can pray, give, and even go as Christ leads.

To learn more about GFA's work across Asia, click here.

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