India: When the Rains Don't Stop

It seems mother nature has no remorse. As water levels were finally beginning to recede, another round of flash floods has undercut millions across eastern India and Bangladesh who had taken first steps in the long recovery.

Overall, the United Nations' says more than 66 million people have been affected in South Asia since the monsoon season began in June, a number larger than the population of France. Incidences of drowning and the collapse of homes triggered by incessant rains in recent weeks have pushed the death toll past 4,000, while aid agencies warn the humanitarian crisis could worsen as waterborne diseases spread.

According to the U.N., more than 86,000 cases of malaria have already been reported in Pakistan and another 70,000 suffer from gastroenteritis. An outbreak of cholera in the tribal areas of India's eastern Orissa province, meanwhile, has killed at least 100 people. In the absence of shelter as the seasonal cold sets in, there are fears that many children will also be vulnerable to potentially lethal respiratory infections.

To raise awareness for relief efforts that will continue through the winter, an alliance of leading aid agencies this week called for "a more forceful international response" that takes into account the cyclical nature of flooding in the region. They acknowledge their role in supplementing the work of state governments in flood-hit areas, but stress the ongoing difficulties in mobilizing attention and funds needed for a sustained aid campaign. The flow of relief to Pakistan is emblematic of the international community's response: The July Flash Appeal for Pakistan, calling for $38 million, has been only 29 percent funded so far.

The aid agencies behind the statement –- CARE, Oxfam, World Vision, Save the Children and Mercy Corps -- also highlighted the devastation to successive crops that will force non-landed farmers to borrow money. In India's dirt poor Bihar province, about one-third of rural households are completely landless; in some districts this figure is as high as 70 percent. Three rounds of floods there wiped out both the summer crop and most of this month's fall harvest. This, in turn, will likely pull many more of them into a state of debt that becomes almost impossible to emerge from when interest rates are as high as 7-10 percent. Of all the ugly symptoms caused by flooding, the proliferation of bonded labor is often overlooked.nbsp;