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How the Start Fund is responding to deadly flooding across South Asia

  • by Melina Koutsis
  • 24 Aug 17

Image credit: Christian Aid

Blog Post

Last week, while many were focused on the devastating landslides in Sierra Leone, elsewhere more than 16 million people were affected by deadly flooding in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. Start Network’s Melina Koutsis discusses.

Every year around this time in South Asia, monsoons occur lasting around four months, which too often ravage already vulnerable communities and destroy livelihoods. This year the region has been particularly hard hit, with upwards of 600 people dead and thousands of people displaced across India, Bangladesh, and Nepal by flooding and landslides. More than 16 million people (and this is a conservative figure) have been affected while crops, households, roads, and communications networks have been significantly damaged.

While much of the media attention was turned to the unquestionably horrific landslides in Sierra Leone (which was also responded to by the Start Fund), last week Start Network members across these three countries quickly raised the alarm to respond to the intensifying monsoon rains and landslides across South Asia.

The Start Fund Committee agreed that the alerts clearly fit within Start Fund’s mandate to respond to under-the-radar, small to medium scale emergencies where limited funding was expected.

“South Asia is facing [the] worst floods in many decades. Despite being such a widespread disaster [it] seems to have little take-up from the international humanitarian donors. Till now there is no commitment from donors on funding much needed response for those affected, however Start Fund was the only source of funding available to meet immediate humanitarian needs and will provide financing for the most marginalised and excluded communities such as in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in India after earlier funds were released to Assam in July this year.” Ram Kishan, Regional Emergency Manager Asia, Christian Aid

Within three days of the alerts being raised, a cumulative total of £1,357,229 had been disbursed to the region. To briefly summarise the responses:


In Nepal, Concern Worldwide/Welthungerhilfe, Save the Children, Handicap International/Christian Aid, and their partners (listed below) will begin implementation this week to respond to the worst rainfall the country has seen in 15 years. Due to prolonged rainfall between 11 and 14 August, close to half of Nepal’s districts have been affected by flooding and landslides. Approximately 100,000 people will receive WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), health, shelter support, or food and non-food items.


In India, CAFOD, CARE, Christian Aid, Oxfam, and their partners (listed below) will begin implementing projects in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, regions that are not typically affected by flooding. We were informed by members that six to seven million people are estimated to be affected in Bihar alone, with half a million more people affected in Uttar Pradesh.  These agencies will focus on reaching the most marginalised of the people by distributing emergency shelter and WASH kits, rehabilitating and constructing water facilities, and hygiene promotion to avoid the spread of waterborne diseases.


In Bangladesh, where rivers began to overflow as a result of the heavy monsoon rains and the incoming flood water from India, Start Fund’s recently launched national fund in Bangladesh quickly kicked into action. Many states were above danger levels with more than five million people affected according to recent figures. Close to £660,000 has been allocated to ActionAid, Care International, Concern Worldwide, Handicap International, Relief International/HelpAge, Save the Children, Plan International, and their partners (listed below) to respond primarily through cash grants to the quickly deteriorating situation across a third of the country.

“Relief International, HelpAge International Bangladesh and AID Comilla are very excited with the unique opportunity to support elderly population among the most flood-affected households in Nageswari and Bhurungamari sub district under Kurigram District in Bangladesh through Multipurpose Cash Grants (MCG) and WASH Services. In order to promote and respect greater inclusiveness in disaster response, our intervention will benefit at least 8000 people and households with elderly members will be selected as beneficiary on priority basis."  Nazrul Islam, Country Director Bangladesh, Relief International & Rabeya Sultana, Country Director – HelpAge International

In the span of 72 hours, the Start Fund, its members, and partners were able to respond to three concurrent under-reported emergencies. This is no small feat.  But the Start Fund still wants to do more to respond to these cyclical crises. Through its Anticipation Window, the Start Fund is exploring ways to further reduce suffering by acting in advance of predictable crises before they turn into disasters. By acting well before the crisis has hit agencies can mitigate potential harm and loss. The Anticipation Window is bringing together a range of actors from the humanitarian, scientific, and academic communities to improve its forecasting information. A true indicator of success would be to see more anticipatory alerts in the region next year should significant flooding be forecasted.

Finally, it’s important to spend a moment recognising the numerous local and national partners who will be responding to the flooding in South Asia alongside Start Network members. All too often their names are forgotten in communications, and yet over the coming weeks and months they will play a crucial role in ensuring support is provided to even the most hard-to-reach communities. The full list is below - and I hope you will appreciate how long it is:

Local partners in Nepal:

  • Sahakarya Nepal
  • Aasaman Nepal
  • People in Need
  • DEC Nepal
  • BASE Nepal
  • Forum for Human Right & Disabled (FHRD)

Local partners in India:

  • Caritas India
  • Poorvanchal Grameen Vikas Sansthan (PGVS)
  • Nava Jagriti
  • Sohratgarh Environmental Society

Local partners in Bangladesh:

  • Bangladesh Association for Community Education (BACE)
  • Solidarity
  • National Development Program (NDP)
  • Assistance for Social Organisation and Development (ASOD)
  • Community Development Center (CDC)
  • Association for Integrated Development-Comilla (AID-COMILLA)
  • RDRS
  • Mohidev Jubo Kallayan Sangstha (MJKS)
  • Manob Mukti Sangstha (MMS)


Read more about the Start Fund.

Read more about the Anticipation Window.

Keep reading:

Start Fund Start Fund Bangladesh India

  • by Melina Koutsis